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Croat Med J. 2007 Jun;48(3):300-11.

Role of exposure analysis in solving the mystery of Balkan endemic nephropathy.

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Department of Geological Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


We evaluated the role of exposure analysis in assessing whether ochratoxin A or aristolochic acid are the agents responsible for causing Balkan endemic nephropathy. We constructed a framework for exposure analysis using the lessons learned from the study of endemic goiter within the context of an accepted general model. We used this framework to develop an exposure analysis model for Balkan endemic nephropathy, evaluated previous findings from the literature on ochratoxin A and aristolochic acid in the context of this model, discussed the strength of evidence for each, and proposed approaches to address critical outstanding questions. The pathway for exposure to ochratoxin A is well defined and there is evidence that humans have ingested ochratoxin A. Factors causing differential exposure to ochratoxin A and how ochratoxin A is implicated in Balkan endemic nephropathy are not defined. Although there is evidence of human exposure to aristolochic acid and that its effects are consistent with Balkan endemic nephropathy, a pathway for exposure to aristolochic acid has been suggested but not demonstrated. Factors causing differential exposure to aristolochic acid are not known. Exposure analysis results suggest that neither ochratoxin A nor aristolochic acid can be firmly linked to Balkan endemic nephropathy. However, this approach suggests future research directions that could provide critical evidence on exposure, which when linked with findings from the health sciences, may be able to demonstrate the cause of this disease and provide a basis for effective public health intervention strategies. One of the key unknowns for both agents is how differential exposure can occur.

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