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Intracellular cytokines interleukin 6, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha and TNF-beta were studied in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with Kawasaki disease during the acute, subacute and convalescent stages of the disease utilizing cytokine-specific monoclonal antibodies and indirect immunofluorescence. Intracellular cytokines TNF-alpha and -beta were present only during the acute stage before initiation of therapy and not in the subacute or convalescent phase. Intracellular interleukin 6 was seen in both the acute phase and, in small numbers of patients, in the subacute stage of the illness. Overall 15 of 25 (60%) patients produced at least one intracellular cytokine. In the acute stage both monocyte and lymphocyte cytokines were detected intracellularly, TNF-alpha and TNF-beta in 58% of patients whereas interleukin 6 was seen in only 16%. This study provides evidence to support the involvement of activated mononuclear cells, both T cells and monocytes and their secreted soluble products, cytokines, in the pathogenesis of Kawasaki disease.