Doubt over litchi-encephalitis link

Medicine faculty member T. Jacob John from Christan Medical College, Vellore, has questioned the perceived link between litchi orchards and encephalitis outbreak in the state.

By Our correspondent in Patna
  • Published 25.05.18
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Patna: Medicine faculty member T. Jacob John from Christan Medical College, Vellore, has questioned the perceived link between litchi orchards and encephalitis outbreak in the state.

John was speaking at a talk on acute hypoglycaemic encephalopathy (brain injury from prolonged or severe hypoglycaemia) organised by the Centre for Health Policy at the Asian Development Research Institute (Adri) in Patna on Wednesday.

He emphasised the need for evidence-based investigation, especially in case of epidemic outbreaks.

Outbreak of suspected encephalitis cases is reported every summer in Muzaffarpur and Vaishali districts, where litchi is extensively cultivated.

Dr John also carefully intertwined the domains of medicine, science, psychology and his own field of epidemiology to demonstrate the importance of scientific inquiry in disease outbreak, and urged doctors not to base their diagnosis on subjective traditional beliefs.

He argued that the positive association between litchi consumption and occurrence of acute encephalitis cases among children would be misleading unless their nutritional status was considered.

Through a detailed investigation, Dr John found no evidence for effect of toxins present in litchi on blood glucose if the child was well-fed. He concluded his talk, saying that doctors should turn medical detectives, both in clinical settings and outbreak situations, to appropriately examine the tricky medical mysteries and conditions.

The talk was followed by a question-answer session where John cleared doubts raised by the audience.

At the start of the programme, Adri director Prabhat P. Ghosh welcomed and introduced Dr John.

Present at the talk were government delegates, doctors, faculty members, development partners and representatives from various institutes and organisations, including AIIMS-Patna, Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Science, Patna Medical College and Hospital, Nalanda Medical College and Hospital, Paras HMRI hospital, Ruban Hospital, Tripolia Hospital, Anugrah Narayan Medical College and Hospital, Gaya, Indian Medical Association and Unicef.