Lychees Linked To Risk Of Encephalitis In Malnourished Children

Mostly malnourished kids are dying.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — With more than 110 children dead in India from encephalitis, experts there are now saying that going to bed on an empty stomach after eating lychees, may have contributed to the cause of the illness.

Two weeks after the affected children were hospitalised with convulsions and high fever, the number of dead passed 100.

It is not known what exactly has caused the brain inflammation, though heat and humidity could be contributory factors.

Previous studies in 2017 have made a connection between malnutrition and a particular toxin found in lychees.

Doctors have noticed that urban children from better off backgrounds have not succumbed to the disease. It is only children from impoverished and malnourished rural families who have become ill and died.

A study published in the Lancet Global Health journal in 2017, found that during the day, children in the affected villages ate lychees and often did not have dinner. They fell ill the very next morning, with serious symptoms such as seizures, high fever and degraded brain function.

Hypoglycin A, naturally present in lychees, causes a reduction in blood sugar levels during the night, causing hypoglycaemia.

Treatment is through an infusion of dextrose within four hours of the onset of the disease. However, equally effective yet simple prevention approach is to ensure that no child goes to bed without eating a meal first.

Outbreaks of acute encephalitis syndrome have occurred annually during the summer season in the Bihar districts, where lychee grows abundantly, since 1995.

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