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Food Addit Contam. 2002 Mar;19(3):282-302.

Balkan endemic nephropathy and associated urinary tract tumours: a review on aetiological causes and the potential role of mycotoxins.

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Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Toulouse, Laboratoire de Toxicologie et Sécurité Alimentaire, Auzeville-Tolosane, France.


A series of publications in the 1950s described a kidney disease in Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia and Romania that became known as Balkan endemic nephropathy (BEN). The disease was qualified by World Health Organisation (WHO) experts as 'progressive and very gradually developing renal failure with insidious onset.... The last stage shows marked fibrosis...'. BEN is characterized by tubular degeneration, interstitial fibrosis and hyalinization of glomeruli accompanied by enzymuria and impaired renal function without nephrotic syndrome. Later, an association between BEN and tumours of the kidney pelvis and ureter was recognized, so that the problem of BEN became not only nephrological, but also oncological. There may also be an association with increased urinary bladder cancer incidence, although many confounding factors may interfere in the analysis of data for this organ. In view of the very intimate association between BEN and the urinary tract tumours (UTT), the term 'endemic uropathy' has been proposed. Several hypothesis concerning the aetiology of these diseases has been investigated, which include: predisposing genes factors, environmental factors (heavy metals, minerals, bacteria, leptospira, viruses, fungal toxins and, most recently, pliocene lignites). This paper reviews the different hypotheses about the aetiology of endemic uropathy and pays particular attention to the role of fungal toxins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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