Ir­re­spon­si­ble re­portage can harm busi­ness'

Down to Earth - - HEALTH -

Vishal Nath, direc­tor, Na­tional Re­search Cen­tre for Litchi ( NRCL), says there is no sci­en­tific ev­i­dence to prove that acute en­cephali­tis syn­drome ( AES) in chil­dren is caused by litchi and that con­clu­sions can­not be drawn from mere sus­pi­cions. Edited ex­cerpts from an in­ter­view:

Has NRCL done any re­search on the link between litchi and AES?

NRCL pro­motes sci­en­tific cul­ti­va­tion of litchi. We do not do re­search on AES. But we have sup­ported re­searchers from the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Virol­ogy and Na­tional Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol in find­ing the cause of the dis­ease. Few months ago they car­ried out re­search to find out if rats and bats that eat litchi could spread AES.

What were the find­ings?

The find­ings were not shared with us. We were in­formed by other sources that no con­firmed link could be es­tab­lished between litchi and AES.

How do the re­ports on litchi caus­ing AES af­fect NRCL and litchi farm­ers?

It is a mat­ter of great con­cern. As a re­searcher I do not rule out that litchi can cause AES. But there should be sci­en­tific ev­i­dence. The me­dia should be care­ful with its re­portage. Litchi busi­ness was at stake this year be­cause of th­ese un­con­firmed re­ports. For­tu­nately, it did not trans­late into losses. But the sit­u­a­tion might worsen if the links are not dis­proved at the ear­li­est. Farm­ers are also con­cerned. Many vic­tims of AES are chil­dren of th­ese farm­ers. They are equally wor­ried that the crop they cul­ti­vate could kill chil­dren.

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