Homebrew considered as a mystery disease cause

One possible cause of a mysterious chronic kidney disease that causes the organ to shut down is bootleg liquor, according to specialist Ray Wong McClure.

“You can get liquor from the supermarkets, but in Guanacaste they mix fruits and several types of sugars. Then they ferment it,” he said.

Wong works at the central office of Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and is the director of an investigation to solve the mystery of the cause of this disease. The study is in its preliminary stages, but so far he knows that is a problem mostly with young men in the coast, he said.

This knowledge comes from an impact study conducted last year from patients at Hospital Dr. Enrique Baltodano Briceño in Liberia, Guanacaste.

Analyzing data from 2005 until 2010, researchers found that there were 150 cases in the region. Out of these cases, 52 percent were under the age of 50 and 90.7 percent were males.

In this period, the disease had a 36 percent mortality rate.

Starting next month, Wong, a physician, and his team of experts will begin a one-year case study in eight clinics of eight different cantons. These regions are Liberia, Cañas, Nandayure, Nicoya, Hojancha, La Cruz, Carrillo and Bagaces. The majority of the budget, 75 percent, will be spent in Cañas, Bagaces and Carrillo because of the high impact there, he said.
“The study is weighted which means it is oriented to cantons with bigger problems,” said Wong.

Overall it is a multi-center research project with an assorted group that consists of Centro Nacional de Intoxicaciones, Nefrología-Hospital México, Nefrología-Hospital Calderón Guardia, Servicio de Medicina Interna de Hospital Dr. Enrique Baltodano as well as family physicians of Guanacaste.

The experiment will compare patients of the disease with a control group. The group will be exposed to different factors such as labor, pesticides and liquor.
“What we are looking to find out is what was the experience in the past that provoked the condition. The cause of the condition could be anything. Today it is a mystery,” said Wong.

An analysis of global health data showed that from 2005 to 2009, kidney failure has killed more than 2,800 men a year in Central America, according to the Center for Public Integrity, which first reported on the issue in December.

In Costa Rica, death from the disease is up 16 percent from 2005. In El Salvador and Nicaragua over the last two decades, the number of men dying from kidney disease has risen fivefold, according to the report. Now more men are dying from the ailment than from HIV/AIDS, diabetes and leukemia combined, the U.S.-based center added.

The illness also has been blamed on dehydration. Wong has noted that the disease has been identified in laborers outside of the sugar cane industry such as construction, possibly ruling out the link to pesticides.

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