The Andhra Pradesh government has requested AIIMS-New Delhi and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) in Hyderabad to conduct a long-term study to determine the causes of the mystery illness in Eluru in West Godavari district.
One person died due to the illness while 550 people were hospitalised, however, the cases of unexplained convulsions and seizures, which started on December 5, stopped as abruptly as they started.
The government’s move comes on the heels of recommendations by several scientific agencies for a long-term study as no conclusive proof of the cause of the illness was found in probes undertaken so far.
Both AIIMS and IICT have already conducted a series of tests in the region.
The AIIMS study found lead and nickel in blood samples of at least 45 victims. Its report pegs organochlorine in food as a potential cause and adds that pesticides could be the reason for the presence of organochlorine. The study added that traces of lead were found in blood samples of relatives of patients and recommended a long term study.
Meanwhile, IICT experts said 21 samples of water were collected along with blood samples of people and animals in the region. Neither traces of heavy metals like lead, nickel, nor pesticide residues were found in water samples. However, traces of Endosulfan and DDT (pesticides) were traced in blood samples, along with lead.
Health Commissioner Katamaneni Bhaskar told The Indian Express that the drinking water supplied in the affected areas of Eluru and groundwater samples tested over one week did not reveal contamination. “Everything was within permissible limits. A study is needed on food products,” he said.
The government may ban sale of some types of pesticides in the state and will permit only approved pesticides to be sold through Rythu Bharosa Kendras, Health Minister A Krishna Srinivas said.