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Three-month-old baby with rare disorder catches fire automatically

Chennai, Aug 10, 2013, DHNS:
File photo. For representational purpose only.

Karnan and Rajeswari were shocked to see their two-month-old son Rahul on fire for the first time. They woke up to the gravity of the situation when the incident repeated itself.

Doctors told them that the child was suffering from “spontaneous human combustion,” a condition where concentrated combustible gas is emitted from the body, making people susceptible to fire.

Rahul has been admitted to Kilpauk Medical College Hospital (KMCH) with 10 degree burns. He is now stable and responding to treatment, said the doctors.

Karnan and Rajeswari are contract labourers from Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu. Karnan said neighbours started isolating the family after observing Rahul. “Everybody thought it was due to evil influence,” he said.

“The baby was admitted on August 8 with 10 per cent burns. He is stable now,” R Narayana Babu, head of pediatrics at the hospital, told Deccan Herald.


Babu, however, said the treatment was not adequate. “Research is going on to find an accurate treatment for this disease,” he said. The baby will be kept under observation. He may be discharged after two weeks, he added. 

About 200 such cases have been reported across the globe in the last 300 years.
“The mother told us that there were four such instances of spontaneous fire. The first time, it happened eight days after his birth. The last episode was a month ago and the baby was admitted to Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research,” said R Jayachandran, a professor with the paediatrics department of KMCH.

“The family does not have any medical record and we have to check with Jipmer for the case sheet.” According to Babu, the baby suffered burns in the abdomen and the chest.
“The baby has to be observed in detail. We have to investigate whether the ailment is genetic or otherwise. We should also carry out tests to find out the kind of gases released by the baby,” Jayachandran said. Doctors said the baby should be kept in places with proper ventilation.

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