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The mystery disease that rocked the Eluru town in Andhra Pradesh, which resulted in the death of one person and made more than 600 people sick, is being probed by multi-disciplinary teams and expert agencies.

While early findings point towards heavy metal in their blood samples, it is yet to be conclusively identified as the main cause.

But abnormalities were found in the food they had consumed, including one that suggested traces of mercury in rice and pesticide content.

The National Institute of Nutrition had formed a nine-member committee and the latter’s preliminary investigation revealed that residues of pesticides are the cause of the outbreak and research need to be done on the long run. Mercury traces in rice are also high and more testing is needed. However, it is yet to be identified how these have entered the human body.

On Saturday, State Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy held a conference with experts from AIIMS, NIN, IICT, CCMB, NCDC and NIV, who are all part of the multi-disciplinary committee headed by State Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney. the focus as on the presence of organochlorines and organophosphors in blood samples and how this could have happened.

Use of banned pesticides

A review meeting has been slated for Wednesday to discuss the progress made in investigation by various agencies. One of the key discussions centred around the use of banned pesticides.

Experts of AIIMS Delhi, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and Andhra Pradesh Municipal Department have found there is no evidence that drinking water is contaminated. Samples are being collected from animals and fish for testing.

The expert team of AIIMS Delhi said 16 water samples were tested and high concentrations of lead and nickel are not found and tests were being conducted again. Nickel was detected in the primary investigation of milk and the samples are further being studied. Nickel and lead were detected in blood samples and lead is found in urine samples.

According to IICT, Hyderabad, 21 drinking water samples were examined and the drinking water is clean. There were no traces of lead or orgonochlorine or orgonophosphates. However, these were found in the blood samples. The presence of these in serum shows that the illness in Eluru was caused by organochlorines and organophosphates.

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