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Uddanam Kidney Disease Draws Harvard Scientists to Andhra

Actor and founder president of Jana Sena, Pawan Kalyan addresses during a partyprogramme in Visakhapatnam on July 30, 2017

A team of professors from Harvard University Medical College is visiting the Uddanam region in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh to study the high incidence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the area. The visit of Dr Joseph Bonventre, chief of Renal Division at Brigham Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, and Venkata Sabbisetti, also from Harvard Medical School, was facilitated by Telugu actor K Pawan Kalyan.

 Demystifying the Ailment

Calling this a health crisis requiring urgent medical attention, Dr Bonventre said they are hopeful of demystifying the ailment in coordination with other experts in India. He met almost 200 patients from 15 villages, and collected information such as the history of disease, food habits, drinking water sources, and pesticides used for their farmlands, according to the Times of India.

The root cause as well as other issues pertaining to CKD have been baffling local and international scientists for several years now. A team from Harvard had earlier visited the region in 2014. In 2011 and 2014, researchers from various institutes, including Indian Council of Medical Research, Andhra University Medical College and NTR University for Health Sciences, found high levels of mercury in the groundwater that was consumed by people in the area.

Polluted Water

The wide prevalence of the ailment has been attributed to several possible causes, including high levels of silica in water, heat stress nephropathy and gene mutations. “About 15% patients were found to have higher creatinine levels during the recent tests conducted by the state government this year in Uddanam region,” the publication quoted Dr T Ravi Raju, vice-chancellor of Dr NTR University of Health Sciences, who visited the area, as saying about the earlier studies conducted by King George Hospital and other institutions.

Uddanam region, which includes almost 100 villages, has been in the news since early 1990s for witnessing the high prevalence of renal failure, many of them fatal. About 4,500 people have died due to kidney ailments in this region since 2005, according to Andhra University Medical College, the Indian Express reported.

Free Treatment

In January this year, Pawan Kalyan’s efforts had prompted the Andhra Pradesh government to announce that government hospitals would give free dialysis and medicines, and arrange for free transport of nephropathy patients in Uddanam. The Jana Sena Party leader had, during a tour of the area earlier this year, promised people that he would organise an expert team to study the issue. He also announced plans to set up a kidney research center in the area.