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Slideshow: Mystery in India

 

Along the coast of northern Andhra Pradesh, a mysterious epidemic of chronic kidney disease has affected the region for the last two decades.

Anna Barry-Jester

 

The northern coast of Andhra Pradesh is suffering from a mysterious form of chronic kidney disease. The region’s name, Uddanam, comes from a word in Sanskrit that means “Beautiful Garden” or “Paradise.”

Anna Barry-Jester

 

Siva Bendalam feeds a cow in his village in Varaka, Andhra Pradesh. “So many people are leaving,” said Siva, who helps support his family since the death of his father and uncle in 2007. “If the disease continues, no one will be here.”

Anna Barry-Jester

 

According to unpublished results from a Harvard University study, chronic kidney disease affects 24 to 37 percent of the population in some villages in Uddanam, 2 to 3 times higher than other parts of the district.

Anna Barry-Jester

 

Women collect water from a bore well in Varaka, Andhra Pradesh, India. Water is widely suspected as the cause for the epidemic, due to the strange geographic patterns and the particular form of CKD, which is likely caused by a toxic exposure.

Anna Barry-Jester

 

A long line of patients wait to see a doctor at King George Hospital in Vizag, India, during a twice weekly nephrology clinic at the hospital. Vizag is the closest hospital with a nephrologist for people with a mysterious form of chronic kidney disease in the Uddanam region of Andhra Pradesh.

Anna Barry-Jester

 

A crowd of patients and family members wait to be seen at the nephrology clinic at the public King George Hospital in Vizag.

Anna Barry-Jester

 

Dr. Sasidhar Goriparthi, a nephrology fellow at King George Hospital in Vizag, India, talks to patients waiting in line for care in the hospital's nephrology ward. Patients travel from all over the state to be seen in Vizag as there are very few, if any, nephrologists available in rural areas.

Anna Barry-Jester

 

The Aarogyasri card of Savara Jayamma Balakrishna, 38. Aarogyasri is an insurance plan in the state of Andhra Pradesh that pays the insurance premiums for citizens below the poverty line.

Anna Barry-Jester

A man and woman receive dialysis at the  Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in the Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh. As part of a public-private partnership with the state, the newly opened dialysis ward is run by a private company. The state has had difficulty finding a nephrologist willing to live in the area to manage the ward.

Anna Barry-Jester

 

Ramarao Laxminaraina, a 25-year-old rice farmer, receives dialysis treatment.

Anna Barry-Jester

 

Prameela Bendalam lost her husband to chronic kidney disease in 2007. "I borrowed money thinking that he would survive, but he died, and now the loans have to be paid back as well," she said.

Anna Barry-Jester

Residents of Uddanam celebrate a festival for the goddess Asiripolamma, said to protect three of the villages in the area. Unlike similar epidemics in Sri Lanka and Central America, this mysterious form of chronic kidney disease in India affects men and women equally, according to separate research by Harvard and Stony Brook Universities.

 

Anna Barry-Jester