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Researchers identify proteins that could help diagnose 'Kawasaki disease' early

A research team from Yokohama City University has identified four types of protein that could be used to diagnose "Kawasaki disease" at an early stage. The discovery is important because it will hopefully lead to a reduction in heart complications that occasionally develop as a result of the illness.

    Yokohama City University associate professor Yayoi Kimura and her team of fellow researchers observed that the concentration levels of four different proteins -- LBP, LRG1, AGT and RBP4 -- changed during the acute or early phase of Kawasaki disease.

    These findings are significant because the disease is known for being difficult to diagnose during the acute stage. There are at least five prominent symptoms, such as fever, red eyes and rash. But because it takes between three to seven days for these symptoms to appear altogether, even experts hesitate to commence treatment before all the symptoms are there.

    Therefore, in the future, if doctors are able to identify protein-level related changes during the acute phase of Kawasaki disease, it should facilitate an earlier diagnosis, and hence enable treatment to commence more quickly. In cases where symptoms persist for 10 days or so after onset, and are not treated, heart complications such as coronary artery disease can develop in 25 to 30 percent of patients.

    Having made this discovery, Yokohama City University now intends to test a diagnostic agent in clinical trials from fiscal 2017 onward, in collaboration with a Japanese company, having already applied for an international patent. Looking ahead, Kimura is positive. "We are hoping that our findings can be used in four to five years time to make actual diagnoses."

    Kawasaki disease is a rare condition that affects at least 15,000 people in Japan each year, many of whom are infants and young children. The disease was given its name after a doctor called Tomisaku Kawasaki reported its presence in 1967. The disease causes blood vessels to become inflamed and swollen, and the cause remains unknown.

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