Researchers from Boston University School of Public Health are a little closer to unraveling the mystery behind a chronic kidney disease epidemic that has been affecting young, male agricultural workers in Central America for many years, perhaps decades. Since 2009, this research team has sought the cause of CKDu (chronic kidney disease of unknown origin), which is not associated with diabetes or hypertension. In their latest study, they followed 284 Nicaraguan sugarcane workers during the harvest period, noting the types of work performed, measuring proteinuria and estimated glomerular filtration rates, and collecting information on water and electrolyte consumption. They found a decrease in kidney function in seed cutters, irrigators and cane cutters—workers who performed the most physically demanding jobs in extreme heat and humidity. Those who had worked the most years had lower glomerular filtration rates. The findings suggest that occupational factors as well as heat stress and dehydration may play a role in CKDu. In the future, the researchers will continue to investigate the risk of heat exposure as well as agricultural chemicals, though chemicals were not linked to CKDu in this particular study.
Occupational Link in Kidney Disease Epidemic in Central America, ScienceDaily, February 2, 2015