The source of a mystery illness that killed one person and hospitalised hundreds of others has been identified.
The sickness made headlines after it swept through the coastal town of Eluru in Andhra Pradesh state in India, causing sufferers to suddenly experience nausea, seizures and fainting.
Others frothed at the mouth, had body shivers and began vomiting after suffering burning eyes.
According to officials in India, 505 cases have been recorded, with 332 of those patients since discharged from hospital. Nineteen patients were moved to other hospitals in the state for further treatment.
Scientists believe they have found the cause of the sickness, with a preliminary report revealing it may have been a case of “neuro-toxicity” caused by lead, nickel and other heavy metals, the Hindustan Times reported.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi performed the study and took samples from patients which showed the metals present.
A statement from the health ministry said India’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu was pushing for the samples to be studied so the results could be verified and a proper treatment could be provided.
Officials said the illness was not a bacterial or viral infection, nor a contagious disease.
“It is a sudden onset of symptoms of convulsions and epilepsy which could be treated symptomatically,” state health commissioner Katamaneni Bhaskar told the Hindustan Times.
Eluru residents affected by the illness described suddenly collapsing and developing fits, despite being otherwise healthy.
The state’s Health Minister Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas said all of the patients tested negative for coronavirus.
India has been struggling to contain the Covid pandemic, with Andhra Pradesh one of the worst-hit states with 800,000 cases alone.