Changes in kidney function among Nicaraguan sugarcane workers

Rebecca L. Laws, Daniel R. Brooks, Juan José Amador, Daniel E. Weiner, James S. Kaufman, Oriana Ramírez-Rubio, Alejandro Riefkohl, Madeleine K. Scammell, Damaris López-Pilarte, José Marcel Sánchez, Chirag R. Parikh, Michael D. McClean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: There is an epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD) of unknown etiology in Central American workers. Objectives: To investigate changes and job-specific differences in kidney function over a 6-month sugarcane harvest season, explore the potential role of hydration, and measure proteinuria. Methods: We recruited 284 Nicaraguan sugarcane workers performing seven distinct tasks. We measured urine albumin and serum creatinine and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Results: eGFR varied by job and decreased during the harvest in seed cutters (-8.6 ml/min/1.73 m2), irrigators (-7.4 ml/min/1.73 m2), and cane cutters (-5.0 ml/min/1.73 m2), as compared to factory workers. The number of years employed at the company was negatively associated with eGFR. Fewer than 5% of workers had albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR)˃30 mg/g. Conclusions: The decline in kidney function during the harvest and the differences by job category and employment duration provide evidence that one or more risk factors of CKD are occupational.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-250
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic kidney disease of nontraditional etiology
  • Estimated glomerular filtration rate
  • Mesoamerican nephropathy
  • Serum creatinine
  • Tubulointerstitial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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  • Cite this

    Laws, R. L., Brooks, D. R., Amador, J. J., Weiner, D. E., Kaufman, J. S., Ramírez-Rubio, O., Riefkohl, A., Scammell, M. K., López-Pilarte, D., Sánchez, J. M., Parikh, C. R., & McClean, M. D. (2015). Changes in kidney function among Nicaraguan sugarcane workers. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 21(3), 241-250.