Your child feels terribly ill and has a fever for days that can hardly be managed, a red tongue, rash, swollen lymph nodes and joint pain? Not always is a typical childhood disease, such as measles or scarlet fever, behind such symptoms. Also the rare Kawasaki syndrome makes itself so noticeable.
What is Kawasaki Syndrome (KS)?
The Kawasaki syndrome (KS) owes its name to the Japanese doctor Tomisaku Kawasaki, who described it in 1967 for the first time. The disease is also technically referred to as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome (MCLS) and affects only children (in 85% of cases under 5 years), boys slightly more often than girls.
In Japan, the incidence rate is many times higher than in other countries. In Germany, an estimated 5-17 out of every 100, 000 children are diagnosed each year, that is about 200-600 children per year. It is reported over and over again small epidemics, which occur particularly frequently in late winter and spring.
Whether the disease actually reappeared in the 1960s or already existed before the first description is controversial. One hypothesis, for example, is that it was the introduction of antibiotics that made it possible to recognize the disease that was otherwise hidden behind other symptoms of an infection such as scarlet fever, or that it was just another form of a vascular inflammation (also known before) (polyarthritis nodosa) is.
Interestingly, in the early 1970s, the same disease symptoms were described in Hawaii, regardless of the - until then only in Japanese - publication Kawasakis. Again, the researchers are not yet agreed, whether it is a coincidence or the MCLS spread from Japan in the late 60s via Hawaii to the Western world.
What is Kawasaki syndrome and how does it come about?
Kawasaki's disease is one of the vasculitis syndromes, ie feverish diseases of various causes, in which inflammation of the vessels are in the foreground. Since the vessels occur in the whole organism, the symptoms are correspondingly diverse.
The exact cause is still unknown. However, most experts assume that a pathogen or its toxins triggers the Kawasaki syndrome, presumably a hereditary disposition, ie the susceptibility of the body to develop appropriate complaints, must be present. Factors that support this thesis ("infection + genes") are:
- Seasonal and geographically frequent occurrence
- acute course; the symptoms are similar to other infectious diseases caused by bacterial toxins
- certain genetically defined structures on the cell surface (histocompatibility antigen HLA-Bw22) are more common in those affected.