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Mysterious Kidney Disease ‘Devastating’ Central America’s Pacific Coast, AP Reports

The Associated Press/Seattle Times reports on a “mysterious epidemic [that] is devastating the Pacific Coast of Central America, killing more than 24,000 people in El Salvador and Nicaragua since 2000 and striking thousands of others with chronic kidney disease at rates unseen virtually anywhere else.” The news service provides statistics regarding kidney disease in various Central American countries, quotes a number of experts regarding potential causes of the disease and notes, “While some of the rising numbers may be from better record-keeping, scientists believe they are facing something deadly and previously unknown to medicine.”

“Many of the victims were manual laborers or worked in sugarcane fields that cover much of the coastal lowlands,” the AP writes, noting, “Patients, local doctors and activists say they believe the culprit lurks among the agricultural chemicals workers have used for years with virtually none of the protections required in more developed countries,” while others believe the illness is due to chronic dehydration and stress. The news service notes that some experts also have received reports of mysterious kidney disease from Australia, Sri Lanka, Egypt and the Indian east coast (Aleman et al., 3/3).