A recent study had confirmed that a chemical present in the Lychee fruit is behind the mysterious death of malnourished children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur for years.
According to a study report published in the Lancet, an investigation begun in 2013 by India’s National Centre for Disease Control and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that Methylene cyclopropyl-glycine, chemicals found in Lychee that causes hypoglycemic encephalopathy when blood sugar levels are low in the body, caused the trauma and resulted in the death of children from early as 1995.
The disease, similar to Japanese Encephalitis, would break out every year in mid-May and the cases would be at their highest in June.
According to a New York Times report, every year in mid-May, as temperature increased, children woke up with a loud cry in the morning despite having been healthy just the night before. The children were taken to hospital immediately. The youth began having seizures and slipped into comas. More than 40 percent of those admitted to the hospital were died.
The New York Times report mentions a medical detective story that lasted two years with epidemiologists. Dr Rajesh Yadav, who moved to Muzaffarpur three years ago, closely examined the life of hundreds of children affected by the illness and tried to understand everything they had eaten, drunk and breathed.
The three-year long investigation listed several clues that led them to conclude that Lychee fruit was the reason behind the mysterious outbreak in Muzaffarpur.
The clues include:
- There was no evidence the children had infections.
- Most of the victims had very low blood sugar levels.
- Outbreaks had been associated with the ackee fruit.
- Affected children had huge metabolic imbalances.
The scientists carried out tests on more than 300 children and found that the children had low blood-sugar levels that led to the illness, NYT reported.
The doctors have suggested that young children in the affected areas are given an evening meal to prevent the disease and that consumption of Lychee fruit should be limited.
Bihar is the largest producer of the summer fruit in the country.