SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Every year since 1995, a mysterious illness has swept across and plagued the little town of Muzaffarpur in Bihar, India.
Around May and June each year, scores of young children would begin showing signs of a fever. They’d have seizures and convulsions, before ultimately slipping in and out of consciousness.
Then in 2014, hundreds of children were brought to hospitals, exhibiting symptoms of an illness, branded locally as “chamki ki bimari,” or “tinsel disease.” Of the 390 children admitted for treatment, 122 died. Teams of researchers and medical experts worked exhaustively to find the cause, but had no such luck.
According to a new report, which was published in The Lancet Global Health medical journal on Tuesday, claims to have discovered what’s been causing the deadly disease: Lychee.
Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and India’s National Centre for Disease Control compared test results of children who had developed the mysterious illness, and children who had not. Analysis of blood and spinal fluid samples showed no signs of infection or exposure to chemicals and insecticides.
However, the majority of children who had fallen ill had eaten lychee fruit recently. Those same children were also six times more likely to visit a fruit orchard within 24 hours of falling ill, the study said.
Muzaffarpur, conveniently, happens to be India’s largest lychee farming region.
According to the report, parents said children that lived in infected villages spent most of their days eating from lychee trees, and would return home “uninterested in eating a meal.” The report said that children that fell ill were twice as likely to have skipped dinner, which, according to the researchers probably resulted in “night-time hypoglycaemia.”
The Indian government issued a statement Wednesday advising children to henceforth “minimize litchi fruit consumption” in affected areas, and eat an evening meal during the “outbreak period.”
But researchers say there are still questions about the mystery that remain unanswered. For example, while orchards surround a multitude of India’s villages, typically only one child from each village develops an illness from eating lychee. Therefore, the report said, the equation could also include a child’s individual genetics.
“The synergistic combination of litchi consumption, a missed evening meal, and other potential factors such as poor nutritional status, eating a greater number of litchis, and as yet unidentified genetic differences might be needed to produce this illness,” the study said.
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