Chronic Kidney Disease in Sri Lanka

As reported by the Associated Press on Jan. 18, a large and growing number of Sri Lankans, particularly farmers, are falling ill to a mysterious disease referred to in medical literature as “chronic kidney disease of uncertain etiology,” or CKDu. Symptoms usually appear in the late stages of the disease and include fatigue, panting, nausea, lack of appetite, and anemia. People suffering from CKDu gradually lose renal function, requiring dialysis. 

Unlike CKD, which is typically caused by diabetes and hypertension, no strong evidence exists for a single cause of CKDu. Possible causes include chronic dehydration and exposure to agricultural chemicals. Other countries where CKDu is prevalent include El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Egypt, and India. In Sri Lanka, where CKDu was first identified in the 1990s, the affected population is generally between 30 and 60 years of age and lives primarily in the dry regions of the country.