Toxins in litchi fruit may kill children

Scientists from US and India have found that consumption of litchi fruit on an empty stomach can result in very low blood glucose level and acute encephalopathy leading to seizures and coma, and causes death in Children in many cases.

Litchi fruit contains the toxins hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropyl-glycine (MCPG). Its consumption and skipping evening meals causes very low blood glucose level (less than normal 70 mg/dL) and acute encephalopathy in children.

Background

Outbreaks of high fever followed by seizures and death in young children were reported in poor socio-economic backgrounds in rural Muzaffarpur in Bihar and other litchi-growing regions in India due to consumption of unripe lychees on an empty stomach. In 2014, fever and convulsions had killed 122 and hospitalised 390 children within three weeks in Muzaffarpur. All the sick children had eaten litchis without eating evening meal and had developed high fever, seizures and convulsions followed by coma before daybreak.

Key Facts
  • Unripened litchi contains Hypoglycin A, naturally-occurring amino acid that causes severe vomiting (Jamaican vomiting sickness).
  • MCPG is a poisonous compound found in litchi seeds that cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, vomiting, altered mental status with lethargy, unconsciousness, coma and death.
  • These toxins may block enzymes involved in normal glucose metabolism and result in an inability to synthesis glucose leading to acutely low level of blood sugar.
  • The build-up of other metabolic by-products can also have an adverse effect (encephalopathy) on the child.

Remedies: Dextrose therapy (giving children sugar to normalize their rapidly plummeting blood glucose levels), minimising litchi consumption, eating evening meal throughout the outbreak period, implementing rapid glucose correction for suspected illness.

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Categories: Science and Technology Current Affairs - 2017

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