The discoverer of Balkan endemic nephropathy

Ass. Prof. Ioto Tanchev is a Bulgarian doctor and scientist, nephrologist, discoverer of the Balkan endemic nephropathy – a special disease of the kidneys that occurs only in certain regions of Bulgaria, Romania and the former Yugoslavia. Graduated from medicine in Sofia in 1942.

Associate Professor Ioto Stoyanov Tanchev was born on July 30, 1917 in the village of Bodenets, Vrachan region. He graduated from the Men’s High School in Vratsa in 1936. The same year he began his studies in medicine at the Faculty of Medicine in the city of Cluj, Romania, where he remained until 1940, after which he transferred to the Faculty of Medicine in Sofia. He graduated in 1942, brilliantly defending his doctoral thesis on leukocyte changes in certain chronic diseases, under the supervision of Prof. Konstantin Chilov, Prof. Vladimir Alexiev and Prof. Tosho Gotsev.

Although still a young doctor, Dr. Ioto Tanchev began research on atypical nephritis noticed in the villages around the town of Vratsa, Bulgaria. In 1956, together with his colleagues from the local district hospital, they described for the first time in the world in the magazine “Modern Medicine” the main symptoms of the peculiar disease, which occurs only in endemic areas of Bulgaria, Romania and the former Yugoslavia. Their contribution consists of first place in the accurate description of the clinical picture and laboratory indicators of this particular disease of the kidneys. A wave of interest in the disease follows.

The newly described disease was first called “Vrachan nephritis” and later became known as “Balkan endemic nephropathy” and also as “Danubian endemic familial nephropathy” since there were subsequently described diseased residents of certain areas in the former Yugoslavia and Romania. 

Numerous scientific conferences and symposia dedicated to BEN followed, and there were dozens of publications – by well-known Bulgarian and foreign authors in the most prestigious nephrology journals (Kidney International, Nephron, Am. J. Nephrology, Clin. Nephrology and many others).

In 1964, the WHO organized a large congress on the problems of BEN in the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, in which the most authoritative nephrologists from all over the world participated. At this forum, it was accepted that endemic nephropathy, newly described by Associate Professor Ioto Tanchev and co-authors, represents a new nosological entity in human medicine. In 1988, the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria (then INRA) deservedly awarded Ass. Prof. Tanchev and his team a diploma for discovery No. 8, named “Phenomenon in Nephropathies” and included them in the Golden Book of Discoverers.

In the most prestigious nephrology textbooks and books such as “Oxford Textbook of Clinical Nephrology” edited by S. Cameron and others, the edition of Harvard and University of California “The Kidney” edited by B. Brenner and F. Rector and etc. the chapters on Balkan endemic nephropathy begin with the name of the discoverer of the disease, Ass. Prof. Tanchev. His scientific achievements have been appreciated by the world nephrology community and represent a great international recognition for Bulgarian medicine.