The mystery of a deadly outbreak in India has been solved as scientists have concluded that more than 100 children died a year after consuming lychees on an empty stomach.
For more than two decades, apparently healthy children in a region of Bihar suffered sudden seizures and lost consciousness. Almost half of them died.
A joint investigation by US and Indian scientists probed the cause and according to research published in British medical journal, The Lancet,the deaths were caused by eating Lychees on an empty stomach.
Toxins found in lychees inhibit the human body’s ability to produce glucose, which adversely affected young children whose blood sugar levels were already low.
Most of the sufferers were poor children in India’s chief lychee-producing region, who ate the fruit they procured from orchards, according to the journal.
They roused screaming in the night and suffered seizures and lost consciousness as a result of acute brain swelling.
Researchers examining the sick children at a hospital in Muzaffarpur between May and July 2014 were able to establish a link to another such outbreak in the Carribean that caused brain swelling and spasms in children. The outbreak was triggered by the ackee fruit, which contained hypoglycin, also found in lychees, tests later confirmed.
Following the discovery, health officials told parents of young children to limit the number of lychees they consumed and ensure they got an evening meal.
Further, children showing signs of the illness should be promptly treated for hypoglycaemia, officials said.