Lychee behind mystery deaths of over 100 Indian children

New Delhi: The deaths of over 100 children in Indian region of Bihar during the last two decades baffled doctors and health experts.

But now the scientists from the United States and India have claimed to find reason behind the mystery illness and deaths of these children, which is eating too many unripe lychees on an empty stomach.

According to the research, published in medical journal The Lancet, the lychees hold an amino acid that affects blood glucose levels.

“Parents in affected villages report that during May and June, young children frequently spend their day eating lychees in the surrounding orchards; many return home in the evening uninterested in eating a meal,” said the researchers.

The scientists found that most of the victims were brought to the hospitals in the middle of the night or early morning.

“This knowledge has been slow to reach certain parts of Asia where the so-called mysterious lychee disease has been attributed to various causes (fruit colouring, heat stroke) in Bihar, India, to an unidentified pesticide in north-west Bangladesh and, after an exhaustive negative virological search, to a yet-to-be-discovered neurotropic virus in northeast Vietnam,” Professor Peter Spencer and Dr Valerie Palmer wrote in a Lancet paper discussing the research.

The amino acid found to be the culprit is found in the fruit of many members of the Soapberry family, which also includes the lychee, along with rambutan, longan and ackee.

“Fortunately, the high cost of these imported fruits and the likelihood that would be eaten in small quantities by well-nourished consumers, suggests there is little reason for concern in the USA,” Professor Spencer and Dr Palmer said in research report.