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Boston University investigates causes of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in Nicaragua
Since 2009, upon a request received from Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited (NSEL) and Chichigalpa Association for Life (ASOCHIVIDA), a research team from the Boston University School of Public Health (BU) has been investigating an epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Nicaragua of unknown cause.
Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited, owner of the Ingenio San Antonio (ISA) sugar mill, and ASOCHIVIDA, the most representative association of kidney patients in the western region of the country, asked the research team to investigate the causes of CKD in the western zone of Nicaragua, where San Antonio’s sugar cane plantations are located, and to determine also if there is any relationship between ISA’s labor practices and the causes of CKD.
In the past three years, the BU team has conducted several research activities, some of which were focused on evaluating industrial hygiene and occupational health at Ingenio San Antonio, as well as the quality of the water by testing samples collected within ISA’s plantations.
"Based on our review of the information gathered during the IH Assessment and the current scientific information available, we concluded that none of the current work practices or the chemicals used by ISA are generally accepted causes of CKD. This conclusion does not rule out the possibility that one or more of these agents might in fact cause CKD, but new scientific research and insights will be necessary to establish whether a link actually exists," indicates the summary report submitted by the researchers.
The research team also conducted several water quality tests in ISA’s plantations and the research study concludes that "at the time samples were collected at the six locations on ISA property selected by ASOCHIVIDA members, water quality analyses indicated there was no evidence that consumption of the water would be harmful to human health."
The report reveals that in the course of the research in Nicaragua in the past three years, they learned that the epidemic of chronic kidney disease observed in Nicaragua has obvious similar characteristics in other countries Central America, such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica, as well as in other tropical regions like Sri Lanka and India, so the team plans to expand its research to some countries in the area.
“Given the increasing evidence that the epidemic is not limited to only sugarcane workers or only to Nicaragua, we feel it is important to conduct this effort in multiple industries (including sugarcane) and in multiple Central American countries (including Nicaragua)," indicated the report, which also presents an outline of the design of future research.
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