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UCL Division of Medicine

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Wellcome Images Award

29 March 2017

Ben Caplin (UCL Centre for Nephrology) was featured in an Observer article accompanying a Wellcome Images Award winning photograph highlighting the kidney disease affecting the rural population of Nicaragua.

Over the past two decades, there has been a marked increase in deaths from kidney failure across Central America due to an unknown cause. This condition, termed Mesoamerican nephropathy, is reaching epidemic proportions. It is now the leading cause of death amongst working age men in Nicaragua and is devastating the rural communities in the region where treatments for kidney failure such as dialysis or transplantation are unavailable.

With funding from the UK Colt Foundation and US NGO La Isla, Ben Caplin along with Professor Neil Pearce from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and collaborators from UNAN-Leon, Nicaragua has been conducting a cohort study in the region in an attempt to identify the causal factors associated with disease. Over the last 2 years the study has followed 350 previously apparently healthy young adults, a substantial proportion of whom have now suffered an aggressive loss of kidney function. The project has now moved into the laboratory where the team are pursuing analyses of the biosamples using a wide range of approaches along with a collaboration with investigators at the UK Health and Safety Laboratories to quantify exposure to specific toxins.