Published: Sat, February 04, 2017
Health Care | By Jeffery Armstrong

This fruit has been killing kids in Muzaffarpur for 22 years

This fruit has been killing kids in Muzaffarpur for 22 years

Parents of the children narrate that otherwise healthy children awake with a scream in the night or early morning and suffer convulsions before losing consciousness. Is the fruit toxic?

US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and India's National Centre for Disease Control researchers compared test results of children who already having the illness and children who were not affected by the mysterious disease.

"Although lychees are abundant in the orchards surrounding the villages in the countryside of Muzaffarpur, typically only one child in the entire village develops this acute illness", the researchers wrote in the January 30 issue of the journal the Lancet Global Health. Most of the victims were poor children in India's main lychee-producing region who ate fruits that had fallen on to the ground in orchards, the journal said. Children who ingested lychee seeds were more likely to become ill because the body can't use create and glucose well when the toxins are present, CNN reported.

Young children, who are particularly susceptible, returned home full of fruit and turned down dinner, causing their blood sugar levels to plummet even lower.

In addition, they found high levels of hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropyl glycine (MCPG) in two-thirds of the children's urine. As a outcome, many return home in the evening uninterested in eating a full meal.

The researchers recommended that children don't over-indulge on lychees, and that parents make sure they eat an evening meal to prevent new cases. Unripe ackee fruit was known for decades to cause "Jamaican vomiting sickness", but that knowledge did not reach certain places like Muzaffarpur until now, noted Oregon Health and Science University's Peter Spencer, professor of neurology and Valerie Palmer, senior research associate, in a comment published alongside the paper. Explanation for this ghastly illness had been evading experts until recently, when researchers found that the trigger could be a toxin found in litchis. "One of the things we heard multiple times from the children's mothers was that they didn't really eat dinner properly". The cases of illness reportedly fell to less than 50 in the past year.

Similar outbreaks of children developing an acute brain disorder after eating lychees have been reported in the Indian state of West Bengal, as well as parts of Vietnam and Bangladesh.

The researchers also said there were now studies looking at how to put the lychee's glucose-lowering properties to good use in treating metabolic syndrome.

With that established, the investigators asked participants if they would be comfortable issuing recommendations based on their findings: that young children in the affected areas be encouraged to always eat an evening meal, and that consumption of lychees should be limited.

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