Muzzafarpur’s Mysterious Child Killing Disease Linked to Litchis

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Since 1995, a disease of unknown origin was responsible for children getting sudden seizures, fits and slipping in and out of consciousness.

According to a CNN report, 122 out of 390 children have died of this mysterious disease. A new report published by The Lancet Global Health medical journal now claims to have found the source of the disease — The litchi.

Muzaffarpur in Bihar is the largest litchi farming area in India. Famous for it’s ‘Shahi Litchis’, it is the main source of revenue for the city, and now it’s the leading cause of children’s deaths.


Litchi, The Killer?

According to a study published in The Lancet Global Health, most of the sick children had consumed the fruit recently and were also six times more likely to have visited a fruit orchard in the last 24 hours.

The results said that children who fell ill were twice as likely to have skipped dinner –after spending a day at the orchard – which according to the researchers probably resulted in "night-time hypoglycaemia."

When their blood sugar levels dropped, the body would start to metabolise fatty acids to produce a necessary boost of glucose. However, urine samples showed that two-thirds of the ill children showed evidence of exposure to toxins found in litchi seeds –found in higher levels in unripe fruits. In the presence of these toxins “glucose synthesis is severely impaired,” the study said, leading to dangerously low blood sugar and brain inflammation in children.

The Solution?

The Indian government issued a statement, on Wednesday, advising children to henceforth "minimise litchi fruit consumption" in affected areas, and eat an evening meal during the "outbreak period."

However, the researchers said there are still some questions surrounding the mystery disease. For example, while orchards surround many villages in the area, typically only one child in each village develops the illness. The report suggests it may have something to do with genetics.

“The synergistic combination of litchi consumption, a missed evening meal, and other potential factors such as poor nutritional status, eating a greater number of litchis, and as yet unidentified genetic differences might be needed to produce this illness,” the study said.

(Source: CNN)

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