In a bizarre revelation, researchers have confirmed that a chemical present in litchis had been killing malnourished children in Bihar's Muzaffarpur for years.
Bihar, the largest producer of litchis in the country, had seen several mysterious deaths from Methylene cyclopropyl-glycine, chemicals found in the summer fruit, that causes hypoglycemic encephalopathy when blood sugar levels are low in the body.
Hypoglycemic encephalopathy causes convulsions and coma.
According to a report published in The Lancet, India's National Centre for Disease Control and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began an investigation in 2013, into the illness, that the doctors have now linked to litchees, as cases had been reported from as early as 1995.
The medical journal reported that the disease, which seemed similar to Japanese encephalitis, would break out every year in mid-May and the cases would be at their highest in June.
Every year, parents and doctors would go into a tizzy trying to figure what was so many deaths. Dr Rajesh Yadav, who was with the India Epidemic Intelligence Service, told The New York Times, "They were in a kind of panic... Their children were dying, and it was an unknown thing."
The disease mostly affected poor and undernourished children living near the orchards. "The victims had signs of brain cell damage and seizures, indicating that a toxin and not just undernourishment was causing the disease," Dr T Jacob John of Vellore's Christian Medical College told The Guardian last year.
For years, doctors were unable to figure out the reason behind the illness. The scientists carried out tests on more than 300 children and found that the children had low blood-sugar levels that led to the illness.
To prevent the disease doctors have suggested that children in the area are given an evening meal during the breakout period to reduce risk of the disease.
Also In HuffPost India