Kawasaki Disease (KD) aka lymph node syndrome or Kawasaki Syndrome is a self-resolving vasculitis (inflammation).
What does it do?
It inflames the medium sized arteries and affects many organs in the body including the skin, mucous membranes, lymph nodes, blood vessel walls, and most importantly, the heart. Without timely treatment, a child will take longer to recover and 25% of untreated children may develop heart disease.
Who gets KD?
175 children out of 100,000 in Japan are affected by Kawasaki Disease and it is estimated that 4200 children are affected in the United States each year. KD is more prominent in boys than girls and Asians more than non-Asians. 80% of children affected are under the age of five. Though rare, some very young children just a few months old or older children and teenagers can be affected. KD has some seasonality predictability being more prominent in winter and early spring.
Where does KD come from?
Many children that contract KD have a health history of being ill very often. Most parents state that their KD child was sick a few weeks prior to the onset of KD. KD is an autoimmune disease and is presumed to be the interaction of genetic and environmental factors. The specific cause is still unknown and there are some theories that primarily rely on immunological causes for the disease. Many reports have indicated a connection to KD from carpet cleaning chemicals or the bacteria raised during the cleaning process, prior respiratory illnesses, use of a humidifier or living near a stagnant body of water. However, no firm evidence exists that any of these reported activities cause KD.
Who discovered KD?
Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki, a Japanese Pediatrician, recognized that many teenagers had acquired early heart disease around 1961 and began studying this condition. He published a description in Japanese in 1967 and a description in English in 1974.
What are the recent medical findings?
An association has been made in early 2009 between a SNP (see below for definition) in the ITPKC gene, which codes an enzyme that negatively regulates T-cell activation. This means that a KD child probably inherited this SNP and their immune system genetically does not function correctly. This would explain why many KD children have poor health histories.
There are additional studies underway based out of San Diego and Australia that are taking this ITPKC study further.
SNP: single-nucleotide polymorphism. A DNA sequence variation that occurs when a single nucleotide within a person's genetic makeup is altered.