Cedars-Sinai researchers have linked Kawasaki Disease, a serious childhood illness that causes inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body, with early-onset and accelerated atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart disease in adults.
In a study published in the August 2012 print edition of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, an American Heart Association peer-reviewed medical journal, a team of researchers showed how Kawasaki Disease in young mice predisposed them to develop accelerated atherosclerosis, often called hardening of the arteries, in young adulthood. The study also suggests that aggressive early treatment of the blood vessel inflammation caused by Kawasaki Disease may reduce the future risk of developing accelerated atherosclerosis. Up to 25 percent of children with Kawasaki Disease will develop inflammation of the coronary arteries, making it the leading cause of acquired heart disease among children in developed countries.
"Heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country and this study suggests that adult cardiovascular diseases likely start during childhood and that Kawasaki Disease may play a role in the childhood origin of adult heart disease," said Moshe Arditi, MD, executive vice chair of research in Cedars-Sinai's Department of Pediatrics in the Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center and director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology. "By recognizing the connection between this vascular inflammatory disease and hardening of the arteries in young adults, physicians will be better prepared to provide preventive care to these vulnerable patients."
Arditi said the study's findings also may have implications for children with Kawasaki Disease in that they may need to be closely monitored for future development of early-onset atherosclerosis. Also, doctors treating children who have had Kawasaki Disease should closely monitor other known cardiovascular disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, Arditi said.
The study is available online at the journal's website.