Every summer, mysterious neurological illness is taking the lives of numerous malnourished children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.

As a result of this, the victims are shaken awake in the middle of night, that too in a mentally confused and semi-conscious state.  The disease kills nearly third to a half of the children and leaves the rest brain-damaged. Moreover, this mysterious neurological illness has even left scientists puzzled for the past twenty years.

THE ‘CULPRIT’ FRUIT

Now finally, researchers have found the reason behind the deadly brain disease. And, the culprit is none other than Litchis – a fruit that grows abundantly in summer.

The Litchi Fruit
The Litchi Fruit, Image Courtesy: Jardinage – Ooreka

Shocked??? But it’s true.

THE REPORTS

As per the reports, researchers have confirmed that a toxic chemical present in litchis is responsible for causing fatal brain sickness in malnourished children of Muzaffarpur.

A team of researchers led by Dr T. Jacob John at the Christian Medical College (CMC)Tamil Nadu reported this. According to his reports, Methylene cyclopropyl-glycine (MCPG) or Hypoglycin G  found in both ripe and semi-ripe litchi fruit is the main reason behind the illness.

MCPG causes hypoglycemic encephalopathy, a metabolic illness that affects brain when blood sugar levels are low in the body. Consequently, this may be either due to fasting or undernourishment.

Prior to this, scientist suspected viral encephalitis as the miscreant. But, John said

When no virus was detected, researchers suspected a toxin from pesticides or from the fruit itself.

However, it is indeed very hard to believe the fact of sweet litchi fruit turning venomous.

DR. T. JACOB JOHN

It all started in 2013 when Bihar government and the health ministry of the central government approached veteran virologist, Dr T Jacob John, as they saw recurrent deaths of children due to a mysterious neurological illness.

Dr Jacob T. John
Dr T. Jacob John, Image Courtesy: Vellore Christian Medical College Foundation

They could not have got better expert than Dr John, as he has a long and distinguished career in public health. In fact, he is the one who gave an idea of polio vaccination campaign as well.

The victims include mostly the malnourished children in and around Litchi orchards.

Dr John reported,

The victims had signs of brain cell damage and seizures, indicating that a toxin and not just undernourishment was causing the disease.

Further, he also added,

Villagers have been told to let children eat the fruit (Litchi) only after a meal.

It’s really hard to accept the truth of the reports. Whatsoever, it is always safe to follow the advice and hence, take the fruit only after a meal.

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