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Study Finds that Traditional Indian Medicines Can Cause Membranous Nephropathy

MEMBRANOUS nephropathy (MN) can be caused by chronic mercury poisoning brought on by the consumption of traditional Indian medicines, new research published by the European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association (ERA-EDTA) has shown. The study could lead to calls for the development of tighter regulations for these kinds of traditional remedies.

Lack of Reported Cases

To date there have been very few reported cases of MN induced by mercury; the ones that are known have been caused by traditional Chinese medicine, skin-tightening creams, and inhalation and hair dye containing mercury. Until now, there have been no reports of traditional Indian medicines leading to renal toxicity, despite their widespread consumption.

Five Cases

In this new research, an Indian working group used renal biopsy to prove that five cases of nephrotic syndrome were caused by MN induced by mercury poisoning due to the consumption of traditional Indian medicines such as Siddha and Ayurveda. The patients, who had each received such medications, were seronegative for antibodies against PLAR2; this showed they had a secondary form of MN rather than the primary form of MN.

The authors believe the previous lack of association between traditional Indian medicines and MN may be due to patients not informing their doctors that they are taking these types of remedies. Additionally, there could be a lack of awareness among physicians and nephrologists that mercury poisoning from traditional Indian medicines is a possible cause of secondary MN. The team suggest that this possibility should be considered by healthcare professionals for anti-PLA2R antibody-negative MN patients.

Tighter Regulation?

They also would like to see greater regulation on the contents of these types of medicines in light of these findings. “The publication of these case reports is important. It shows that seemingly harmless traditional medicine can harm people a lot and that it is high time that controls and regulations concerning the ingredients of any medicine are brought in”, commented Prof Alberto Ortiz. “As long as there are no quality controls for substances used in traditional medicine, we have to warn our patients: Mercury poisoning can lead to MN as well as to many other severe health problems, because it is affecting the brain, the gut and the kidneys.”

 

James Coker, Reporter

For the source and further information about the study, click here.