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

Environ Res. 2016 May:147:125-32. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.02.002. Epub 2016 Feb 8.


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%, 10mL/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.

Keywords: BUN; Chronic kidney disease; Heat stress; Hsp72; KIM-1; NGAL; Occupational; eGFR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Farmers*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / physiology*
  • Kidney Function Tests*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Nicaragua
  • Saccharum*
  • Seasons
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers