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A Balkan Riddle's Serendipitous Solution

Jon is a staff writer for Science.

Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred near tributaries of the Danube River and struck hardest in farming communities. A combination of luck and careful scientific studies with sophisticated molecular tools has shown convincingly that an acid from a weed caused the kidney damage, and the convoluted, surprising discovery offers lessons to researchers struggling to determine what's behind the chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology now afflicting Mesoamerica.

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Posted in Plants & Animals, Environment, Biology, Health