Indian children died after 'eating lychees on empty stomach'

Hundred of kids died in India from mysterious disease which spreads from eating lychee

During the course of their study, the scientists conducted hospital-based surveillance that involved laboratory investigations to assess potential infectious and non-infectious causes in 390 children less than 15 years old, who were admitted to Shri Krishna Medical College hospital and Krishnadevi Deviprasad Kejriwal maternity hospital -the chief referral medical centres in Muzaffarpur with sudden neurological illness, reports The Times of India.

When their blood sugar level dropped, the body would start to metabolize fatty acids to produce a necessary boost of glucose. Explanation for this ghastly illness had been evading experts until recently, when researchers found that the trigger could be a toxin found in litchis.

Muzaffarpur is the largest lychee farming region in this country.

An analysis of blood and spinal fluid samples from the children with the brain illness showed that the children did not have signs of an infection, nor were they exposed to pesticides. "Guidance should be developed for the consumer, especially children but also adults who have a susceptible metabolic profile or who eat fruit after fasting". First: the evidence of the metabolites of hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG) in the specimens of affected children, and the demonstrated metabolic abnormalities that resulted due to the effects of these toxins.

In 2014, doctors at India's National Center for Disease Control and the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention embarked on a study to pinpoint the culprit behind the mystery disease. These toxins are found in higher levels in unripe fruit. The researchers found children who did not eat dinner the night before were more likely to become sick with the mysterious illness. With an already low level of glucose in the morning, eating fallen lychees was fatal.

Over the last two decades, hundreds of healthy children in a region of Bihar have died after eating lychees on an empty stomach. "Our investigation suggests an outbreak of acute encephalopathy in Muzaffarpur associated with both hypoglycin A and MCPG toxicity", the researchers said.

In a new study published in The Lancet Global Health, researchers analyzed nearly 400 cases of children who developed the illness in 2014 and compared them to 100 children who didn't have it. It also mentions about MCPG causing derangement of fatty acid metabolism.

"To prevent illness we recommended minimizing litchi consumption among children, ensuring children in the area receive an evening meal throughout the outbreak season, and implementing rapid glucose correction for suspected illness", they wrote.

While the brain disease outbreak in India may not necessarily be solved, health officials have cautioned parents to limit the amount of lychees eaten by their children.