Chemical substance found in pesticides suspected to be behind mysterious illness in AP

With water contamination and other tests ruled out, medical teams are now focussing on other chemical agents that could have led to the poisoning.
Eluru mystery illness
Eluru mystery illness
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With a mystery illness in Andhra Pradesh’s Eluru baffling health experts and the government alike, preliminary analysis of various test reports has almost established the role of organochlorine substances in the poisoning that has left one dead and over 450 affected since Saturday. Multiple teams of experts from premier scientific institutions of the country are determining the exact cause of the poisoning in Eluru city of Andhra Pradesh.

Organochlorine pesticides are chlorinated hydrocarbons used in agriculture and mosquito control. The compounds include Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which is widely used in anti-mosquito fogging. "Mostly yes, but we are waiting for the laboratory report (for confirmation)," a top official of the Medical and Health Department told PTI on Monday, when asked about organochlorine being the disease-triggering agent.

The poisoning, which first surfaced in the One-Town area in Eluru city, has now spread to the adjoining rural parts of Eluru and Denduluru, though the number of affected there was far lesser. So far, 263 people had been discharged from hospital after treatment while another 171 have been admitted as in-patients. Another 17 patients were referred to hospitals in Vijayawada and Guntur for better medicare, according to official data.

All patients were identified with symptoms of epilepsy, forgetfulness, anxiety, vomiting, headache and back pain, authorities said. The doctors also noted that the epileptic episode was only once.

After talking to experts at the AIIMS, New Delhi, BJP MP GVL Narasimha Rao had initially suspected that the poisonous organochlorine substances could be the most likely cause of the mysterious disease.

With water contamination ruled out as the cause of the disease spread, and also other tests turning out normal, the medical teams are now focussing on other chemical agents that could have led to the outbreak.

Teams of experts from the National Institute of Nutrition and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad reached Eluru on Monday and collected various samples for analysis. Water and milk samples were also sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad for analysis of heavy metal content, sources in the Medical and Health Department said.

On the request of the state government, a team of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in New Delhi, as well as another team drafted by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will be arriving in Eluru on Tuesday "on an urgent visit" for a study and possibly determine the cause of the poisoning. A team from the Indian Council of Medical Research is also expected.

A team of doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) from Mangalagiri visited the hospital and collected blood samples from the patients for a thorough examination.

With all the incoming patients turning negative for coronavirus, the authorities have heaved a sigh of relief.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy visited the Government General Hospital on Monday and spoke to the affected persons, assuring them all help. Addressing a high-level review meeting later, he directed the officials to be on full alert and prepared to handle any situation.


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