By Elizabeth Landau
Juan Salgado was 16 when he started cutting sugarcane, in a town near the Pacific coast of Nicaragua in 1966.
His symptoms began about 35 years later: Fever. Headaches. Poor appetite. Feelings of faintness. For no obvious reason, his kidneys were severely damaged, to the point that doctors said he couldn’t do agricultural work anymore. Many of his friends had it worse.
“I know, many, many workers who were colleagues of mine, who have already died, and I know also many who are not capable of working anymore because of the disease,” said Salgado, now 65, who worked near the town of Chichigalpa, Nicaragua.
The disease is known by scientists as “chronic kidney disease of unknown origin,” or CKDu. In rural communities in Nicaragua, it’s “creatinina,” the Spanish word for creatinine, a biomarker of kidney strength.
At least 20,000 people have died prematurely from this mysterious disease…
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