Hereditary Diseases, Infectious Diseases, Pediatrics

Filipino scientists seek to unravel mysteries of Kawasaki disease

Mysterious disease affecting children may be caused by infection, according to scientists from University of the Philippines – National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (UP-NIMBB).

Kawasaki disease is a disease that causes inflammation of medium-sized blood vessels around the body. Mostly affecting children below five years old, it is the most common cause of acquired heart disease in children such as abnormalities in the coronary artery. If left untreated, the disease may result to death.

First reported in Japan in January 1961, more than half a century later, scientists from all over the world are still baffled with what was causing of the disease. Some studies point out that the disease may be caused by an infection of a still unknown causative agent. Other studies hypothesize that the disease may be hereditary as it is commonly seen on Asian descents.

Results of the study on Kawasaki disease on Filipino children supported claims of that the disease may be triggered by an infectious agent.

UP-NIMBB researchers found that the T cells of participating patients were activated by a superantigen. T cells are a type of white blood cells that helps the body’s immune system. During an infection, the T cells are activated as response to the release of antigens of the invading germs such as viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents. While ordinary antigen can trigger only about .001-.0001% of the body’s T-cells, a superantigen can activate as much as 25% of the immune system’s T cells.

During the study, the UP-NIMBB researchers performed tests on the patients’ T cells. Results of study showed that all Kawasaki disease patients were found to have dramatic elevation of T cells, suggesting involvement of a superantigen. Researchers discussed that the result of study supported claims of other studies that the disease might be triggered by an infection.

Even though it was not able to pinpoint the infectious agent that causes the illness, researchers believe that the study has been significant as it the first ever to be conducted on Filipino Kawasaki disease patients. They insisted that because most studies were done to Japanese and Korean patients, studies on the disease as it relates to the Filipinos are unheard of. The UP-NIMBB researchers believe their research laid down the foundation for future studies on Kawasaki disease in the Philippines.


Natividad, M., Torres-Villanueva, C., & Saloma, C. (2013). Superantigen involvement and susceptibility factors in kawasaki disease: profiles of tcr vβ2 t cells and hla-drb1, tnf-α and itpkc genes among filipino patients. International Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Genetics, 4(1), 70–76.