April 15, 2015

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Washington, DC 20005

I am saddened that 200 children in India have died apparently because of hypoglycemia brought on by eating lychee fruit. (P. Pulla A child Killing Toxin Emerges from Shadows SCIENCE vol. 348 no. 6230 April 3 2015 page 15)

When I was in Jamaica it was understood that the unripe ackee fruit was poisonous because of hypoglycines, which the plant removed as the fruit opened.  This makes sense for a plant that depends on animals to scatter its seeds.  Neither an unripe seed nor a dead animal does the plant any reproductive good at all.   

I did not see it mentioned in the article whether the lychee follows the same logic, and the poisoned children might have eaten unripe fruit.  Perhaps somebody should look into the matter.


M. Linton Herbert MD

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