Unique pattern of urinary tract calculi in Australian Aboriginal children


 Professor D Brewster, Northern Territory Clinical School, Royal Darwin Hospital, PO Box 41326, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia. Email: david.brewster@nt.gov.au


 Young Aboriginal children in remote regions of tropical and desert Australia are at risk of developing urate stones in their upper urinary tract from an early age. These radiolucent calculi were only recognized with the availability of ultrasound diagnosis and are not associated with anatomic anomalies or abnormal uric acid production/metabolism. Although these stones appear to resolve spontaneously after the weaning period, some result in ureteric obstruction and infection which may lead to renal damage. This pattern of urolithiasis differs from the usual global urolithiasis pattern of either endemic bladder stones in young children in developing countries or predominantly calcium-based stones in upper tracts of older children and adults in affluent industrialized countries, where upper tract urate stones account for only a minority of childhood urinary tract stones. Risk factors for urate stones are low urine output and acidic urine. An association between urolithiasis and carbohydrate intolerance leading to chronic acidosis has been suggested for Aboriginal children, but existing limited evidence does not support this as a major aetiological factor. Although further studies on the epidemiology, natural history and management of these urate stones are needed, we believe the focus should be on improving the known social and environmental risk factors of remote Aboriginal children during the weaning period which contribute to the unacceptably high prevalence of failure to thrive, diarrhoeal disease, environmental enteropathy, iron deficiency and urolithiasis.