Toxins present in litchi is reported to cause acute encephalitis syndrome in malnourished children Credit: Representational image

Guwahati: The spike in the number of encephalitis-related deaths of children in Bihar due to toxins in litchi has led to a slump in the Muzaffarpur litchi sales across the country, particularly in Odisha.

The traders of the coastal state stopped procuring the fruit hours after Odisha health minister Naba Kisore Das asked the public food safety commissioner to test the quality of litchis from Bihar, which are being sold in the state.

According to reports, the summer fruit has led to the death of over 110 children with many being admitted to hospitals across Bihar due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES).

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However, researchers suggest the toxin in the fruit mainly affects malnourished children who consume litchi through the day and go to bed on an empty stomach. Skipping the evening meal causes their sugar levels to drop and their body begins to metabolise fatty acids to produce glucose and energy.

The litchi toxins present in their bodies affects the metabolism of the fatty acids and the breakdown of glucose, and in many cases, leads to the inflammation of the brain, which is called encephalitis.

Although the fruit is said to be a major reason for the deaths in Bihar, this is not new. AES outbreak in the state during litch season has been common since 2013.

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