- As many as 10 people have died in western Afghanistan
from a rare liver disease believed to be caused by contaminated wheat,
officials said Saturday. At least 161 people were also hospitalized with
Gulran disease although estimates were as high as 200 affected in Herat
province, on the Iranian border, said Peter Graaff, resident representative
of the U.N. World Health Organization.
- A toxic weed called charmak, which grows in the area,
contains alkalines [alkaloids] that affect the liver causing Gulran disease,
which is named after the affected district in Herat. Graaff said the disease
is not new but rare, and has killed as many as 10 people in recent weeks.
- Abdul Hakim Tamana, the director of the Herat public
health department, said 112 Gulran cases have been recorded in the province's
clinics, and 6 people died. "It has spread all over Gulran district,
including several villages," Tamana said.
- It was unclear exactly how the people became ill. The
WHO is sending an epidemiologist from Geneva to Afghanistan next week to
investigate. Graaff said charmak may have contaminated wheat grown in the
region, flour or other foods.
- The Afghan Red Crescent Society received USD 14 000 to
purchase new wheat to replace suspect supplies in the district as a precautionary
measure, said Graziella Leite Piccolo, a spokeswoman in Kabul for the International
Committee of the Red Cross.
- Tamana said Gulran disease has affected people in the
area over the past 40 years, and several people died in 1999 and 2001 from
- http://health.bloglicio.us/2008/08/22/rare-liver- disease-kills-10-afghans-wheat-blamed/
- Communicated by
- Susan Baekeland,
- Lower Normandy, France
- This disease, Gulran, is named after the affected district
Herat in Afganistan. Caused by a toxic weed charmak. It has occurred a
number of times in various years, always nears this particular region in
Afganistan, and always resulting in fatalities. The toxic plant contains
pyrrolizidine alkaloids, known to cause liver failure and frequently death.
- Portions of this comment were provided by the contributor.
- Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD
- Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
- Univ of West Indies
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