In DepthToxicology

A child-killing toxin emerges from shadows

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Science  03 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6230, pp. 15-16
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6230.15

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As the heat builds before the monsoon rains in the north Indian state of Bihar, hundreds of young children come down with an illness that kills many victims and leaves others brain damaged. Now, scientists believe they have unmasked the mystery culprit: a toxin in the lychee fruit. After a 2-year investigation, researchers suggest in the 30 January issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that the illness results from crashing blood sugar levels likely due to a lychee toxin known to cause hypoglycemia in rats. Two other groups finger the toxin in Current Science and in the May issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases. The mechanism underscores the threat of similar toxins present in related fruits in West Africa and the Caribbean, as well as in a mushroom in China.

  • * in Bangalore, India

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