Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease is a serious condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, including the coronary arteries which supply blood to the heart.

When a child has Kawasaki disease, they initially have a high fever that lasts for several days. Symptoms include red, dry, cracked lips, a red ‘strawberry’ tongue, a rash, bloodshot eyes, and swelling and redness of the hands and feet.

When Kawasaki disease causes inflammation to the coronary arteries supplying the child’s heart, this may result in serious, potentially life-threatening heart problems in the future.

We aren’t sure what causes the inflammation, but it is thought in some cases to be an inflammatory response to common infections. If we can better understand the cause, this will improve diagnosis and treatment for children with Kawasaki disease, as well as the related inflammatory condition that rarely follows COVID-19 in children.

 

Who does it affect?

Who does it affect?

  • In Australia, on average, at least one child is diagnosed with Kawasaki disease every day
  • The incidence of Kawasaki disease has doubled in pre-school children in the last 25 years
  • Kawasaki disease mostly affects children under the age of five, typically occurring between six months and five years. It occurs less frequently in older children and rarely in adults
  • The disease is more common in boys and in children of North Asian ethnicity, but is seen in all ethnic groups
  • Even with treatment, one in 20 children affected develop problems with the blood vessels supplying the heart. 

Our Kawasaki Disease research

Our Kawasaki Disease research

MCRI’s Inflammatory Origins Group is the most active Kawasaki disease research team in Australia and recognised internationally. We have co-led key studies on how common Kawasaki disease is in Australia, how it is treated, and some of the blood markers (signs) that may lead to better diagnosis and treatments.

Our vision

Our vision

Kawasaki disease is serious, relatively common but poorly understood. We are hoping through our ongoing research work and collaborations within Australia and with other experts overseas that we will be able to find a diagnostic test and develop specific and more effective treatments.

Where to next?

Where to next?

We continue to take leadership roles in developing clinical guidelines and research in Kawasaki disease. We also are active in the rare but important inflammatory condition following COVID-19 (PIMS-TS or MIS-C) shares many features with Kawasaki disease, although appears distinct.