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February 21, 2020

Keamari incident: ICCBS report reveals ‘thousands of times’ higher amount of allergens in blood

World

February 21, 2020

KARACHI: Insisting that ‘Soybean dust allergy’ was the most likely cause of deaths of 14 people and hospitalization of hundreds of Keamari residents a couple of days back, the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) on Thursday said no traces of the infamous fumigant Methyl Bromide or any other chemical was found in the blood of 11 affected people and called for an ‘extensive forensic investigation’ into the deadly incident.

“We at ICCBS voluntarily analyzed 11 samples of the people affected in the Keamari tragedy and did not find traces of any chemical or poison in their blood. On the contrary, Immunoglobulin E (IgE) which are produced in response to allergens were thousands of times higher in these patients. The most likely cause of deaths of people and sickness of hundreds of others is soybean dust allergy but we recommend an extensive forensic investigation into the Keamari incident," said Prof. Dr. Iqbal Chaudhry, Director of the ICCBS, University of Karachi, while talking to The News on Thursday.

Sharing the report of 11 samples of patients they received who fell sick due to mysterious poisoning in Keamari last Sunday and Monday, Dr. Iqbal Chaudhry said the amount of IgE detected in one patient was 1,334 IU/mL which should be less than 100 IU/mL, in the second it was 1,016 IUmL, saying most of these people were exposed to powerful allergens, which made them extremely sick and some of the people, with compromised immunity, could not even survive.

“Similarly, we tested these blood samples and found no traces of Methyl Bromide, or any other chemical including choking or nerve agents as we are a specialized center in chemistry and gases. Having said that, there is a need for conducting an extensive forensic investigation into the incident to ascertain the causes of death and sickness to such a large number of patients,” Dr. Iqbal Chaudhry maintained.

The ICCBS director further called for establishment of a ‘poison center’ and a ’24-hour Drug and Poison Information Helpline”, saying there is not such facility which could identify and analyze poisoning incidents and come up with their antidotes, saying in the case of Keamari, a thorough investigation could provide valuable lessons to avoid such incidents in the future.

In the meanwhile, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP), an attached department of Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) that undertakes plant quarantine and fumigates ships at ports, on Thursday said the ship carrying import consignment of soybean for oil extraction purpose was not fumigated with Methyl Bromide as it was found free from live insect pests at the time of inspection at the port conducted by the Quarantine Inspectors of DPP.