Introduction: In the last two decades, chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) has emerged as a significant contributor to the burden of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in rural Sri Lanka. It is characterized by the absence of identified causes for CKD. The prevalence of CKDu is 15.1-22.9% in some Sri Lankan districts, and previous research has found an association with farming occupations.
Methods: A systematic literature review in Pubmed, Embase, Scopus, and Lilacs databases identified 46 eligible peer-reviewed articles and one conference abstract.
Results: Geographical mapping indicates a relationship between CKDu and agricultural irrigation water sources. Health mapping studies, human biological studies, and environment-based studies have explored possible causative agents. Most studies focused on likely causative agents related to agricultural practices, geographical distribution based on the prevalence and incidence of CKDu, and contaminants identified in drinking water. Nonetheless, the link between agrochemicals or heavy metals and CKDu remains to be established. No definitive cause for CKDu has been identified.
Discussion: Evidence to date suggests that the disease is related to one or more environmental agents, however pinpointing a definite cause for CKDu is challenging. It is plausible that CKDu is multifactorial. No specific guidelines or recommendations exist for treatment of CKDu, and standard management protocols for CKD apply. Changes in agricultural practices, provision of safe drinking water, and occupational safety precautions are recommended by the World Health Organization.
Keywords: CKDu; Sri Lanka; cadmium; chronic kidney disease; nephropathy; proteinuria.