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June 1938

Investigations into the Epidemiology of Epidemic Dropsy.

Arch Intern Med (Chic). 1938;61(6):1015-1016. doi:10.1001/archinte.1938.00180110170018

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This paper, a reprinting of five articles from the Indian Journal of Medical Research, is a competent modern study of a disease of peculiar interest to public health officers. The syndrome of epidemic dropsy has been recognized in eastern India since 1877. There have been frequent outbreaks, resulting in as many as 1,575 deaths, although most of them have involved the relatively few inhabitants of small Bengalese villages. Earlier epidemiologists attributed the outbreaks to bacterial toxins generated in infected rice. The present writers appear to have eliminated rice as the poisoning agent and have demonstrated convincingly that certain pressings of mustard oil (the chief food fat of the victims) are responsible for the disease. Unfortunately the nature of the toxic substance is not disclosed in this paper, but further researches are promised.

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