Applied History of Health and Health Sciences at Emory University
Kawasaki Disease Research Project


Dr. Kawasaki (left) and his mentor Dr. Naito, Dec. 1998.
Dr. Kawasaki was interviewed in Tokyo by the principal investigators of the project. (Dr. Naito was 94 years old.)

*For clinical questions about Kawasaki Disease please email Dr. Jane Burns.  
Kawasaki Links
Interviews from the History of KD Project
Listing By Country Alphabetical Listing by Name
Articles on the History of KD

Script for the film
Kawasaki Syndrome in India: The Eye Cannot See
What the Mind Does Not Know

Emory 2002 Symposium on Kawasaki Disease

St. Louis 2003 Symposium on Kawasaki Disease
Kawasaki Disease Canada


About Kawasaki Disease:

Kawasaki disease (KD) is named after the Japanese pediatrician Tomisaku Kawasaki who in 1967 described 50 cases of infants with persistent fever, accompanied by rash, lymphadenopathy, edema, conjunctival injection, redness and cracking of the lips, "strawberry tongue," and convalescent desquamation. Today KD is understood as a rash/fever illness of early childhood in which coronary artery aneurysms (CAA), sometimes fatal, may develop in up to 25 percent of untreated children.

The incidence is highest in Japan with an annual rate of 130-140/100,000 children under 5 years of age. In comparison, incidence for the continental U.S. varies between 9 and 20/100,000 children under 5 years of age and for Japanese Americans living in Hawaii between 120 and130/100,000 in children under 5 years of age. Because its etiologic agent(s) and patho-physiological mechanisms remain unknown, and because there is no diagnostic laboratory test for KD, diagnosis relies on the observation and recognition of clinical signs that comprise the KD case definition. With the establishment of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) as an effective therapy, prompt diagnosis has become essential for timely therapy to ensure a good cardiac outcome.

Although researchers have attempted to uncover the etiology of KD since the 1960s, we appear to be no closer to an answer. Among those who assume there is an infectious agent, disagreement continues over whether the agent is bacterial or viral and whether or not it acts as a super-antigen. Immune response remains a crucial arena of investigation; yet no robust hypothesis has convincingly linked the sign complex and immune cascade with the development of CAA.

For more information about Kawasaki Disease, please visit the website of the Kawasaki Disease Foundation.



The Research Project:

In an effort to widen research questions related to the etiology of KD, the Kawasaki Disease Research Program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine initiated a medical historical investigation of KD in the spring of 1998. We hoped that such an investigation might uncover useful clues in the search for an etiology of Kawasaki disease.

The team (see below) collected a variety of data including historical records of clinical cases and autopsy reports. Because KD was only recently recognized, first-hand accounts are available from those involved in its "discovery." We conducted a series of KD-focused interviews with pediatricians, pathologists, and medical researchers from Japan, North America, and Europe. Topics covered in these open-ended interviews included a recollection of the person's earliest clinical observations, their histories of research into the characteristics and the etiology of the syndrome, and their professional conversations about it. To gain a context for the interview data, we also observed practicing physicians, including members of our team, as they considered and eliminated KD and possible alternative diagnoses. In addition, the observational data were triangulated with our historical understanding derived from the review of existing written sources.

In 2003, the team, along with the Kawasaki Disease Foundation, a national parents group led by Greg Chin in Massachusetts, applied for and was awarded a three-year National Library of Medicine Grant (National Institutes of Health) to develop a website and produce a film on the history of Kawasaki Disease. This website will include transcriptions and films of these interviews; PowerPoint presentations of our preliminary findings, as well as our publications to date.



Principal Investigators:
Howard I. Kushner

Dr. Kushner is the Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Professor of Science & Society at Emory University and Associate Director of the Center for Health, Culture & Society. Kushner has written extensively on medical and social history, including American Suicide (1991) and A Cursing Brain? The Histories of Tourette Syndrome (1999). His current research focuses on risk and protective factors in addictive behaviors.

Christena Turner

Dr. Turner is an Anthropologist and Associate Professor of Sociology and former Director of the Program in Japanese Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Turner is author of the book Japanese Workers in Protest:An Ethnography of Culture and Experience(1994) and articles exploring culture and inequality in Japan and China. Her current research focuses on contemporary practices of cultural production in Japanese organizations and on transnational processes of creating consensus in Kawasaki Disease.

Jane C. Burns

Dr. Burns is Chief of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology in the Dept. of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Burns has a career-long interest in Kawasaki disease and has authored numerous clinical and basic science articles on the disease. Her current research focuses on the genetic influences underlying susceptibility to Kawasaki disease and coronary artery complications.

John F. Bastian

Dr. Bastian is Director of the Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Clinics at Children's Hospital, San Diego and Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego. He has treated children with Kawasaki Syndrome for over 20 years. His other research interests include childhood asthma, primary immunodeficiency disorders, and the applied history of medicine.

Rupert Macnee

Mr. Macnee is a Marketing and Media Consultant. He has produced, written, edited and directed programming for PBS, A&E’s Ancient Mysteries and An Evening at the Improv, Discovery Channels Movie Magic and World of Wonder, and the CableACE winner Full Frontal Comedy for Showtime. He has also created a wide range of Educational and Promotional communication for corporate and educational institutions, particularly in the health field. Most recently, as a Broadcast Executive with KCTS Television, Seattle he was responsible for several Public Television programs including The Videogame Revolution, Exploring Space: The Quest for Life in the Universe, The Inside Passage and a series of interstitials with the Talaris Research Institute for PBS about early childhood development and parenting skills. His awards include: International Tape Association Platinum Award; US Film & Video Festival Certificate For Creative Excellence; John Muir Medical Film Festival, Gold Medal, Patient Education; American Medical Writers Association Film & Video Festival, First Prize, Patient Education; CINE Golden Eagle; International Film & TV Festival of New York, Gold Medal; Columbus International Film & Video Festival, Bronze Plaque; British Medical Association Film and Video Competition Certificate of Educational Merit; San Diego Health Communicators Award; CableACE, Best Stand-Up Comedy Show.



Site hosted by Kawasaki Disease Research Project of theApplied History of Health & Health Sciences at the Center for Health, Culture and Society, Emory University