Australia, Sri Lanka partner to fight chronic kidney disease


President meets Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

May 25, 2017 (LBO) – Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) Thursday signed an MOU with the Presidential Taskforce to assist in the fight against chronic kidney disease of unknown aetiology (CKDu).

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia, Somasundaram Skandakumar, and the CEO of ANSTO, Dr Adi Paterson, signed an MOU that will see Australia provide new insights into the disease.

The signing took place this morning at Australian Parliament House, Canberra, and was attended by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Under the agreement, ANSTO, which operates the Synchrotron and other national research facilities, agreed to help with in-kind support to investigate the epidemiology of CKDu.

According to the Journal of Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine (2014), CKDu affects around 100,000 people, and is linked to 5,000 deaths every year.

It is also a serious public health problem in other countries, particularly in Central America, and despite more than 20 years of study in Sri Lanka and globally, it is not well understood.

While CKDu appears to disproportionally affect poor, rural, male farmers in hot climates, the reasons why are not yet clear.

The World Health Organisation has identified several potential contributing factors, including heavy metals in the groundwater, agrochemicals, heat stress, malnutrition and low birth weight, and leptospirosis.

More research is needed, an issue that was raised by Dr Harsha de Silva, Sri Lankan Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, when he visited the Australian Synchrotron in March 2017.

ANSTO has capabilities to investigate a number of the possible causes, routes of distribution and treatments, particularly in relation to studying any causal links with heavy metals in water, or agrochemicals.

Several hypotheses have been put forward linking the causation of CKDu to various heavy metals, and the quality and quantity of water.

Association of individual pesticides with CKDu has been reported in only two studies in Sri Lanka, but a link has not been ruled out.

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