Traces of lead and nickel are present in the blood of the people who contracted the mystery illness in Andhra Pradesh's Eluru, doctors from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences have found. The number of people reporting symptoms went up to 556 on Tuesday, 458 people were discharged and only 98 patients are still in hospital undergoing tests. More than 45 children below the age of 12 were among the patients. All complained of convulsions, nausea and fainting. One person, a 45-year-old, died on December 5.
Doctors have been trying to diagnose the illness, which struck parts of the town last week amid the Covid outbreak. A battery of teams from various medical organisations and hospitals are working to detect the cause.
On Tuesday, a communique from the Chief Minister's Office said preliminary findings indicated the presence of lead and nickel in blood which could have caused the symptoms.
"More tests are being conducted by Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and other institutes and the results are expected soon," the Chief Minister's Office release said.
Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has told the authorities to "inquire on how lead and nickel particles could have got into the bodies of the people of that region and asked to conduct a detailed study and submit a report".
Mr Reddy has also asked the public health personnel and other departments to "probe the issue deeply and find out the reasons for the illness," the statement read.
What the authorities have pointed out is that the episodes of fits and fainting seem to happen only once. The source of water for different cases reported is not the same. Not more than one member per family has reported the symptoms. The disease does not seem to spread from person to person.
"Our earliest tests had ruled out heavy metals. Even organochlorine could cause these kinds of neurological symptoms," one source said.
Mr Reddy -- who visited the hospital in Eluru yesterday where 150-odd patients are admitted -- met the Governor on Tuesday to discuss the situation. After Governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan's advise to take the help of Central institutes, teams were flown in from Delhi's AIIMS, the National Institute of Nutrition, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.
The Chief Medical Officer of the state has said that the test reports should be compiled for analysis.