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Bull Mem Acad R Med Belg. 1994;149(1-2):128-35; discussion 135-40.

[A new form of nephropathy secondary to the absorption of Chinese herbs].

[Article in French]

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Service de Néphrologie de l'Hôpital Erasme, Université libre de Bruxelles.


An outbreak of rapidly progressive renal failure was observed in Belgium in 1992-1993 and was related to a slimming regimen involving chinese herbs, namely Stephania tetrandra and Magnolia officinalis. Seventy one cases were registered on january 1994, 35 of whom being on renal replacement therapy. Renal failure has been progressing in most of the cases despite the withdrawal of the exposure to the chinese herbs. Renal biopsies showed an extensive interstitial fibrosis with loss of tubes, predominantly in the outer cortex. Chemical analyses of the chinese herbs powdered extracts delivered in Belgium demonstrated a misidentification between Stephania tetrandra and another chinese herb, Aristolochia Fang-chi, potentially nephrotoxic. These observations indicate the need of intensive search of nephrotoxins in cases of interstitial nephritis of unknown origin. Also, they underline the necessity of the introduction of measures allowing the control of correct identification of herbs preparations.

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