Public Release: 

More children at risk of heart disease

Imperial College London

The prevalence of Kawasaki disease, a condition affecting the hearts of young children, has significantly risen over the past decade according to research published today.

Researchers from Oxford University and Imperial College London report today in the BMJ that the incidence of Kawasaki disease has more than doubled, increasing from 4.0 per 100,000 to 8.1 per 100,000 between 1991 and 2000.

Dr Anthony Harnden, from the Department of Primary Health Care, at the University of Oxford says: "This rise has potentially very serious consequences as a fifth of children with untreated Kawasaki syndrome will develop cardiac lesions during the acute phase of their illness, increasing their chances of developing heart problems later on in life."

Dr Aziz Sheikh, an NHS R&D National Primary Care Training Fellow, from Imperial College London, at Charing Cross Hospital, adds: "Despite a heightened awareness of the disease over the past 10 years, this has not proven to be enough. More early diagnosis is needed, so the disease can be treated more effectively."

Despite being widespread, the cause of Kawasaki disease remains uncertain, but epidemiological studies support the theory of an infectious agent inducing the disease in a genetically susceptible minority. Incidence rates also vary considerably across the developed world, with reported rates in Japan exceeding those in the United States ten fold, and in the UK and Australia thirty fold.

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For more information, please contact:

Tony Stephenson Imperial College Press Office Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6712 Mobile: +44 07753 739766 E-mail: at.stephenson@ic.ac.uk

Barbara Hott University of Oxford Tel: +44 (0)1865 280531 E-mail: barbara.hott@admin.ox.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

  1. British Medical Journal, Volume 325, 15 June 2002.
  2. All emergency inpatient admissions for children under 17 years of age with a primary diagnosis of Kawasaki disease between 1 April 1991 and 31 March 2000. During this period there were 2,215 emergency admissions in children with a primary diagnosis of Kawasaki disease. Annual admissions increased from 143 in 1991/1992 to 308 in 1999/2000.
  3. Median age at admission was two years, and 61 per cent of children admitted were boys.
  4. Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine is the largest applied science, technology and medicine university institution in the UK. The College's Faculty of Medicine is one of the largest in Europe with over UKP 90m of research funding in 2000/01, and recently rated 5* or 5 for research in all its divisions. Web site: http://www.ic.ac.uk
  5. For more information on Kawasaki disease, please contact the Kawasaki foundation www.kdfoundation.org

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