Mystery in the Fields

Published — September 17, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

About the ‘Mystery in the Fields’ project


Mystery in the Fields, a three-part series, explores how a rare form of kidney disease is killing laborers and crippling communities in three different regions, from Central America to Sri Lanka to India. As death tolls mount, researchers remain puzzled, unable to definitively uncover the disease’s causes.

The series is an outgrowth of an earlier investigation, “Island of the Widows,” published last December in the Center for Public Integrity and its International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. In that piece, reporter Sasha Chavkin exposed how chronic kidney disease was so prevalent in some regions of Central America it left communities filled with widows and scientists searching for answers.

Building from that research, Chavkin discovered that the disease had also developed in clusters in India and Sri Lanka. Over several months this year, he and video journalist Anna Barry-Jester traveled to the countries to tell the story from the ground, and pressed governments and leaders of the medical community for answers.

Their report is also being published or aired in news outlets including PRI’s The World, the BBC, The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka and The Week in India.

Project staff

Reporter: Sasha Chavkin

Photographer/videographer: Anna Barry-Jester

Web team: Christine Montgomery, Paul Williams, Sarah Whitmire

Fact-checking: Peter Newbatt Smith

Project Editor: Ronnie Greene

Read more in Health

Share this article

Join the conversation

Show Comments

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments