Deadly Fruit

Virologists in India have traced outbreaks of a fatal brain sickness in children to a toxin in lychee fruit, Methylene cyclopropyl-glycine (MCPG).

An investigation by Christian Medical College Vellore into the deaths in Bihar state found that during the May and June lychee harvest only undernourished children who lived near lychee orchards succumbed to illness. 

Researchers identified MCPG in the fruit, a chemical known to cause hypoglycemic encephalopathy, a metabolic disease that affects the brain when body sugar levels are low.

“The victims had signs of brain cell damage and seizures, indicating that a toxin and not just undernourishment was causing the disease,’’ says lead virologist T. Jacob John.


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