Monday, July 27, 1998 Published at 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
Kidney disease breakthrough 'imminent'
Kidney malformation can lead to a lifetime of misery
Researchers believe they could be close to identifying a gene that, if treated, could prevent kidney malformation in babies.
The breakthrough follows extensive work carried out during the past three years among families all with a similar kidney disease, vesicoureteric reflux.
By studying their genetic make up the team at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Institute of Child Health, London, has identified the areas of the chromosomes that could contain the culprit genes.
Locating the reflux genes could lead to the development of a screening test which could be conducted at a very early stage of life to determine how the kidney has developed in the womb.
About one in 100 children is born with the reflux, a condition in which the urine passes the wrong way, from the bladder to the kidney. It can cause kidney infections, scarring and high blood pressure.
The condition may not come to light until teenage years or pregnancy, by which time a substantial amount of kidney damage could have been caused.
Medication can often keep the problem under control, but some sufferers experience total organ failure requiring a transplant or dialysis.
The news comes at the start of the kidney awareness campaign run by the National Kidney Research Fund.
The initiative was launched on Monday with a teddy bears picnic for children suffering from kidney disease in London's Regent's Park.
The campaign runs until Sunday, August 9, and it aims to raise funds for extensive research into kidney diseases.
It also aims to raise awareness of the charity's commitment to patient care and welfare.
About one in five people are born with malformed kidneys, but most disorders are mild and do not develop into serious conditions.
Donations can be made to the National Kidney Research Fund by calling 0800-7832973.