"failing kidneys in a failing planet; CKD of unknown origin"

Eleni Geladari, Natalia Vallianou, Charalampia Geladari, Konstantinos Aronis, Konstantinos Vlachos, Emmanuel Andreadis, Ioannis Theocharopoulos, Spyros Dourakis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The 'alarm clock' for human beings in the era of climate medicine has rung. Original diseases have appeared, that could not be explained and attributed to common causes, which are suggested to be linked to global warming and environmental factors. Such an indolent disease is the chronic kidney disease of unknown cause (CKDu), introduced also as Mesoamerican or Uddanam nephropathy. Scientists equate the climate impact on kidneys with the canary in the coal mine; coal miners used to carry caged canaries with them, so that if poisonous gases, such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine-shaft, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners; similarly, kidneys are injured before devastating and lethal complications occur in humans. In some regions of Central America, the deaths due to chronic kidney disease increased by 177% with a death toll being as high as over 20,000. It was first documented in animals that periodic heat and dehydration have a major role in causing chronic kidney disease. Based on that observation, it is advocated that young male agricultural workers in Central America and South Asia, develop renal disease by getting exposed to extreme heat repeatedly. The clinico-pathological characteristics of this type of kidney injury, do not belong to an existing classification, even though a form of tubulo-interstitial renal disease has been proposed. In this review, we will discuss about CKDu, its epidemiology and pathophysiological mechanisms, clinical presentation and diagnostic biomarkers and examine potential therapeutic options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages11
JournalReviews on Environmental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • agricultural workers
  • chronic kidney disease
  • climate change
  • heat waves
  • Mesoamerican nephropathy
  • unknown cause

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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