Bulawayo’s Health Services Department says the discolouration of the skin and subsequent peeling seen in some Luveve residents looks like a case of Pellagra.
The suburb experienced a diarrhoea outbreak, which resulted in the deaths of at least 13 people while thousands of residents became sick after drinking contaminated water.
Some of the affected residents noticed their skin was turning black, especially on their hands while the skin was peeling off, leaving behind blotched, patched parts and cracked lips.
But the health services department says the skin condition is due to a deficiency disease called Pellagra.
“A community health nurse went to check on the affected children and it looks more of pellagra. Pellagra is a disease of Three Ds, that is Diarrhoea, Dermatitis(rash) usually in sun-exposed areas and Dementia. If one is starving in terms of micronutrients and vitamins in this case niacin, diarrhoea may start, and unfortunately worsen the malnutrition,” said Director of Health Services, Dr Edwin Sibanda to CITE.
Dr Sibanda said diarrhoea, in this case, was “caused by poor food absorption as a result of micronutrient deficiency.”
According to online research, Pellagra is caused by a lack of nicotinic acid or its precursor tryptophan in the diet and is characterised by dermatitis, diarrhoea, and mental disturbance, and is often linked to over-dependence on maize as a staple food.
The main symptoms of Pellagra are Dermatitis, Dementia, and Diarrhoea.
This is because niacin deficiency is most noticeable in body parts with high rates of cell turnover, such as your skin or Gastrointestinal tract.
Dermatitis related to Pellagra usually causes a rash on the face, lips, feet, or hands.
Since patients are often malnourished and have other vitamin deficiencies, provisions for a high-protein diet and the administration of B-complex vitamins are needed for complete recovery against Pellagra.
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)