KUALA LUMPUR: All it takes is one fruit or 100ml of juice and the ordinarily harmless star fruit becomes poison in a matter of hours for kidney patients.
University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) consultant nephrologist Prof Dr Tan Si-Yen said this was what happened to Tang Gon Seang, who has been suffering a kidney ailment.
The 66-year-old Malaysian was in Shenzhen visiting his son when he passed out on March 29 after eating star fruits and was rushed to the Shenzhen General Hospital where he fell into a coma.
“Star fruits contain a neurotoxin, which is not present in other fruits, affecting the brain and nerves. In healthy persons, the kidneys filter it out. In kidney patients, it cannot be removed and worsens their condition,” he said.
More than 10 other patients in the hospital suffered the same condition after consuming star fruits. Two of them died.
After discovering the star fruit connection, Tang has been undergoing dialysis.
His brother-in-law Teoh Thian Lye, 55, confirmed that Tang had been on medication for kidney problems for three years.
The family sought the help of MCA Public Complaints and Services Department head Datuk Michael Chong to transfer Tang back to Malaysia as the family could not afford the hospital bill of RM1, 000-RM2, 000 a day in intensive care.
According to Dr Tan, there was little awareness of this relatively new discovery and no local cases yet.
“The public must be alert to reactions to star fruit. Look out for initial symptoms including hiccups, numbness and weakness and neurological symptoms including confusion, agitation and epileptic fits,” he said.
“The risk of death is high and immediate aggressive treatment of daily haemodialysis is necessary,” he added.
Dr Tan said UMMC was prepared to admit Tang, when he was transferred back to Malaysia.