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Kidney function in sugarcane cutters in Nicaragua - A longitudinal study of workers at risk of Mesoamerican nephropathy

Journal article
Authors C. Wesseling
A. Aragon
M. Gonzalez
I. Weiss
J. Glaser
N. A. Bobadilla
C. Roncal-Jimenez
R. Correa-Rotter
R. J. Johnson
Lars Barregård
Published in Environmental Research
Volume 147
Pages 125-132
ISSN 0013-9351
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Section of Occupational and environmental medicine
Pages 125-132
Language en
Keywords Chronic kidney disease, Heat stress, Occupational, eGFR, BUN, NGAL, KIM-1, Hsp72, glomerular-filtration-rate, central-america, heat-stress, disease, injury, dehydration, communities, salvador, ckd, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, Public, Environmental & Occupational, Health
Subject categories Urology and Nephrology


Background: Chronic kidney disease is common among sugarcane workers in Central America. The main risk factor seems to be repeated high-intensity work in hot environments. Several cross-sectional studies have been performed but few longitudinal studies. Objectives: The aim of the study was to examine whether kidney function changes over a few months of work during the harvest period. Methods: A group of male sugarcane cutters in Nicaragua (N=29, aged 17-38 years) was examined with renal biomarkers before and after shift on the first day at the start of harvest, on the sixth day during acclimatization, and then in mid-harvest 9 weeks later. A reference group (N=25, mainly office workers) was examined with the same biomarkers at start of harvest, and then at end of harvest 5 months later. Results: The pre-shift renal function decreased significantly during 9 weeks of work in the cane cutters. Mean serum creatinine increased (20%), mean estimated glomerular filtration rate decreased (9%, 10 mL/min), serum urea N (BUN) increased (41%), and mean urinary neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) increased (four times). The cane cutters also developed cross-shift increases in these biomarkers, in particular serum creatinine and BUN, and in urinary uric acid. The longitudinal decrease in eGFR tended to be associated with the cross-shift increase in serum creatinine. Conclusions: There was a remarkable decrease of glomerular kidney function, after only 9 weeks of harvest. The cross-shift increase in serum creatinine may be caused by dehydration (pre-renal dysfunction), and when repeated on a daily basis this may cause permanently reduced GFR. (C) 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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