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BC-Sri Lanka-Mystery Kidney Killer,ADVISORY

January 14, 2015

Sunday editors and health/science editors:

Drawing your attention to the following story, which has been sent in advance for use beginning Sunday, Jan. 18. It documents a disease that has sickened up to 400,000 people in an impoverished rice-growing region of Sri Lanka that remains a mystery to researchers, despite two decades of efforts to find the cause. An abridged version will move later this week:

SRI LANKA-MYSTERY KIDNEY KILLER

KONKETIYAWA, Sri Lanka — Karunawathie forces herself to choke down some food before going for her four-hour dialysis treatment. Her fingers and toes are fat with fluid, and her spongy arms feel like soft water balloons. She is only 40 years old, but she is dying, and no one knows why. An estimated 70,000 to 400,000 people in Sri Lanka’s rice basket suffer, and up to 20,000 have died, from the same mysterious disease, which is not seen at all elsewhere in the country. Some suspect heavy use and misuse of agrochemicals, or the water. To Karunawathie, there is no mystery: The disease has already claimed her father, mother, and five siblings, and it will claim her. By Margie Mason. 2,900 words, photos by Eranga Jayawardena. A 1,000-word abridged version will be available.

With — SRI LANKA-MYSTERY KIDNEY KILLER-Q&A: A brief overview of the disease.

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The AP

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