New Delhi: Even as Bihar reels under the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) with the death toll mounting to 112, the Odisha government has said that litchi growing in the area could be the cause.

Studies have revealed that a toxin in litchi triggers a dip in sugar levels if the fruit is all that one eats throughout the day, and Odisha would be checking samples for toxic content, reported ANI.

Department of Health & Family Welfare of the Odisha government said, “Encephalitis is spreading in litchi growing areas of Bihar and other parts of the country. In view of this, the Food Safety Commissioner has been directed to collect and test sample of litchi being sold in the market to ascertain toxic contents.”

A  leading daily has pointed out that six years ago, a two-member team invited by the Bihar government suspected that a toxin (methylenecyclopropylglycine, MCPG) present in litchi was responsible for the mysterious deaths; an Indo-US team confirmed it in 2017. The two-member team found that undernourished children who ate the fruit during the day and went to bed on an empty stomach were taken ill by the next morning.

A study in the International Journal of Medical and Health Research explains that MCPG in unripe litchis can cause a drop in blood sugar levels. It can cause vomiting if it is taken in huge quantities. It can cause unconsciousness, death and coma, said the study. The toxins can cause high fevers and seizures in severely malnourished children.

On Tuesday, as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited the Sri Krishna Medical College & Hospital (SKMCH), he was heckled. Kumar, on his first such visit since the first death was reported on June 5, was accosted by angry families who said the CM found the time only after over 100 kids had lost their lives.

People shouted “Nitish go back” while some others waved black flags at the Chief Minister. The government later came up with a set of directives to combat the outbreak. It includes starting a paediatric ICU at SKMCH, starting a dharmshala for the families or attendants of patients and also disbursing Rs 400 to people to be able to commute to the hospital for treatment.