Poison plant warning after children end up in hospital

Scientists have issued a warning about a shrub common in at least three provinces after four children were poisoned by its seeds.

Pic: YouTube

The children‚ aged between two and six‚ were playing in Limpopo when they ate the seeds of the Jatropha curcas‚ also known as physic nuts‚ after picking them from a branch hanging over a fence.

Within two hours all of them were rushed to hospital suffering abdominal pain‚ nausea‚ vomiting‚ diarrhoea and a burning sensation in the throat.

Writing in the South African Journal of Child Health‚ invasive plant expert Claude Moshobane said: “The patients were treated with intravenous hydration and anti-emetic medication and the symptoms resolved with 12-14 hours.”

However‚ the two-year-old was kept in hospital for a week with prolonged diarrhoea.

Jatropha curcas‚ found mainly in Limpopo‚ Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal‚ is a drought-resistant perennial widely used to form hedges‚ and farmers are being encouraged to grow it as a source of biodiesel.

But Moshobane‚ from the South African National Biodiversity Institute‚ said the plant — native to Central and South America — should be considered a noxious weed.

“The increased interest and cultivation of [the plant] will eventually increase the likelihood of accidental poisoning of children‚ particularly those in rural areas‚” he said.

Moshobane and Cheryllyn Wium‚ from the poison information centre at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town‚ said: “We urge municipal agencies to discourage the use of highly toxic plants as hedges or in gardening.”

By: Dave Chambers – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.