Within a 3-year period after the Great Earthquake of Kobe (Japan) resulted in more than 6,000 deaths and complete destruction of the central area of Kobe City, 14 patients (group 1 [G1]) with myeloperoxidase (MPO)-antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-related angitis and/or nephritis presented to Nishi-Kobe Medical Center in western Kobe City. On the other hand, only 15 patients with this disease were encountered between 1990 and 1997 at Kyoto University Hospital in Kyoto City, which is located 80 km from Kobe City and was only minimally affected by the earthquake. These 15 patients and 1 patient who presented to Nishi-Kobe Medical Center before the Great Earthquake were classified as group 2 (G2). Although the average MPO-ANCA titer in G1 was almost the same as that in G2, G1 showed a significantly greater average value for white blood cells than G2 (11,321 +/- 4,369 versus 8,116 +/- 2, 389/microL; P < 0.05). Concerning renal function, a significant elevation in creatinine (Cr) levels at diagnosis (7.4 +/- 3.8 versus 2.1 +/- 1.4 mg/dL; P < 0.01) and rapidly declining rates of reciprocal Cr levels were noted in G1 (0.325 +/- 0.304 versus 0.087 +/- 0.069 dL/mg. wk; P < 0.01). The number of patients who required emergency hemodialysis was significantly greater in G1 than G2 (nine versus three patients; P < 0.02); however, the incidence of renal death and mortality were not significantly different between the groups. The number of patients who reported upper respiratory tract inflammation as an initial symptom was also significantly greater in G1 than G2 (eight versus two patients; P < 0.01). Moreover, patients in G1 experienced a significantly greater rate of severe pulmonary involvement during the hospital course than G2 (pulmonary hemorrhage, five versus no patients; interstitial pneumonitis, four versus two patients, respectively; P < 0.01). The relatively uniform and distinctive clinical features of the disease after the Great Earthquake, in conjunction with a high morbidity, suggest a relationship between disease development and this urban type of earthquake. Severely provoking air pollution caused by massive destruction and reconstruction of the city may have caused high frequencies of upper respiratory tract inflammation as an initial symptom and severe pulmonary involvement.