Scientific investigations into the outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in West Bengal, which has claimed 105 lives since June, have revealed a pesticide has been found “above minimum safe

More children were admitted to Malda Medical College and Hospital with “litchi syndrome“, bringing the total number of afflicted to 37.

AES outbreak in Siliguri in 1996, traced to imported raspberry, may have led to ‘litchi theory’.

Affected children are largely from around a litchi plantation in Malda

Experts investigating why 14 children died in Dinajpur and Thakurgaon this month with almost identical symptoms believe that pesticides used in litchis could be the reason for their deaths.

Sizzling heat and absence of rains has hit hard the production of litchis in the district, known for its juicy and seedless variety of the fruit. "Due to no rain in most areas of Uttarakhand, the trees have not bore fruits and the litchi production has decreased by nearly 25 per cent, horticulture expert Amar Singh said.