Mesoamerican Nephropathy or Global Warming Nephropathy?

Blood Purif. 2016;41(1-3):135-8. doi: 10.1159/000441265. Epub 2016 Jan 15.


Background: An epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD) of unknown cause has emerged along the Pacific Coast of Central America. The disease primarily affects men working manually outdoors, and the major group affected is sugarcane workers. The disease presents with an asymptomatic rise in serum creatinine that progresses to end-stage renal disease over several years. Renal biopsies show chronic tubulointerstitial disease. While the cause remains unknown, recent studies suggest that it is driven by recurrent dehydration in the hot climate. Potential mechanisms include the development of hyperosmolarity with the activation of the aldose reductase-fructokinase pathway in the proximal tubule leading to local injury and inflammation, and the possibility that renal injury may be the consequence of repeated uricosuria and urate crystal formation as a consequence of both increased generation and urinary concentration, similar to a chronic tumor lysis syndrome. The epidemic is postulated to be increasing due to the effects of global warming.

Summary: An epidemic of CKD has led to the death of more than 20,000 lives in Central America. The cause is unknown, but appears to be due to recurrent dehydration. Potential mechanisms for injury are renal damage as a consequence of recurrent hyperosmolarity and/or injury to the tubules from repeated episodes of uricosuria.

Key messages: The epidemic of CKD in Mesoamerica may be due to chronic recurrent dehydration as a consequence of global warming and working conditions. This entity may be one of the first major diseases attributed to climate change and the greenhouse effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / blood
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / pathology
  • Aldehyde Reductase / metabolism
  • Central America / epidemiology
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Dehydration / blood
  • Dehydration / diagnosis*
  • Dehydration / epidemiology
  • Dehydration / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Fructokinases / metabolism
  • Global Warming*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / blood
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / pathology
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / metabolism
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / pathology
  • Male
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / blood
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / pathology
  • Uric Acid / blood


  • Uric Acid
  • Creatinine
  • Aldehyde Reductase
  • Fructokinases
  • fructokinase