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New Strep A infection triggers scarlet fever

Wednesday September 11th, 2019

A new strain of group A streptococcus bacteria is playing a major role in scarlet fever outbreaks, scientists report today.

It has been discovered by scientists at Imperial College London, UK.

The research team publishes their work in The Lancet Infectious Diseases today (11 September). They report that the new strain, M1UK, now appears to be the dominant cause of Strep A infections in England and Wales since it emerged in 2010.

It is being identified increasingly in cases of scarlet fever, throat infections and much rarer invasive infections. But fortunately the new strain of the bacterium is easily treatable with antibiotics, they add.

“We’ve seen an unprecedented rise in the number of cases of scarlet fever since 2014 but it was only in 2016 there was a rise in the number of serious, invasive cases due to Strep A - which are thankfully very rare - coinciding with the seasonal rise in scarlet fever,” said senior author, Professor Shiranee Sriskandan.

“Our research, done in collaboration with Public Health England, aimed to determine if there was a link between the increase in scarlet fever and the increase in invasive infections. In undertaking this research, we identified the new strain, linked to increases in both.”

First author, Dr Elita Jauneikaite, stated: “There is still uncertainty around the cause of the rise in scarlet fever – and whether it is a result of practice change, population or environmental factors. Research investigating the most appropriate way of reducing the burden of Strep A infections is currently underway – including work into developing a vaccine.

“We may also need to consider whether guidelines for diagnosing and treating throat infections may need to take evolution of new strains and complications like scarlet fever and invasive infections into account.”

Lynskey, N. et al. Emergence of dominant toxigenic M1T1 Streptococcus pyogenes clone during increased scarlet fever activity in England: a population-based molecular epidemiological study. Lancet Infectious Diseases 10 September 2019 doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(19)30446-3

Tags: MRSA & Hygiene | Respiratory | UK News

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