What is Streptococcus A (Strep A)? How Does the Strep a Test Kit Work?
The recent upsurge in Strep A infections has caused significant concern following several deaths among children in the UK. The latest data by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) demonstrates that at least 19 children have died from a severe form of the infection caused by Streptococcus A (Strep A). Given the unusual surge in notifications of invasive Group A Streptococcal infection (iGAS) and scarlet fever, public health authorities are now advising parents, teachers, and the general public to be mindful of the signs and symptoms associated with Streptococcus A (Strep A). What has caused this unusual surge in cases, and how concerned should we be? Read along to learn more about Streptococcus A (Strep A) and invasive Group A Streptococcal infection (iGAS) and their symptoms, treatment, and testing.
What is Streptococcus A (Strep A)?
Streptococcus A (Strep A) is a group of bacteria that commonly causes infections in the throat and skin. Comprised primarily of bacteria of the species S. pyogenes, Streptococcus A (Strep A) is responsible for a wide range of non-invasive and invasive infections with mild to severe severity. Many people carry these bacteria without any symptoms and contract them unknowingly through direct contact with mucus or sores on the skin. Alongside diseases directly caused by infection with Streptococcus A (Strep A) bacteria, such as strep throat, scarlet fever, and impetigo, Streptococcus A (Strep A) is also responsible for various forms of inflammatory diseases that emerge due to the immune response of the body following infection including post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis and rheumatic fever. In fact, according to the Strep A Vaccine Global Consortium (SAVAC), Streptococcus A (Strep A) infections result in an estimated 500,000 deaths every year. Rheumatic heart disease is responsible for around 350,000 of these deaths, while the remaining 150,000 are attributed to acute infection.
What are the symptoms of infection with Streptococcus A (Strep A)?
As mentioned above, Streptococcus A (Strep A) may cause a variety of diseases with different levels of severity. Accordingly, symptoms of infection vary depending on the specific disease caused by the bacteria. One of the most common diseases caused by Streptococcus A (Strep A) is strep throat, which typically presents with symptoms such as throat ache, difficulty swallowing, white nodules in the throat, throat redness, and swollen tonsils. Scarlet fever, on the other hand, typically affects children and commonly causes fever, sore throat, and a rash. When Streptococcus A (Strep A) affects the skin, the bacteria cause an infection called impetigo, which often presents with symptoms such as red sores that leave a yellow crust, blisters, itchy rash, skin sores, and swollen lymph nodes.
What is invasive Group A Streptococcal infection (iGAS)?
In rare cases, Streptococcus A (Strep A) can also lead to a severe form of infection called invasive group A streptococcal infection (iGAS). Invasive group A streptococcal infection (iGAS) may occur when the bacteria get past the immune defenses of the infected person to invade parts of the body that are not commonly infected by bacteria, including the blood, muscles, and lungs. This may happen either due to the decreased ability of their immune system to fight off the infection or the presence of skin sores and breaks allowing the entry of the bacteria. Therefore, individuals with low or compromised immunities, people with chronic illnesses that affect the immune system, and those on specific treatments and therapies are at higher risk of developing invasive disease from infection with Streptococcus A. Invasive group A streptococcal infection (iGAS) typically present with symptoms such as high fever, severe myalgia, localized muscle tenderness, and if present, redness at the site of a wound. Invasive group A streptococcal infection (iGAS) may cause various forms of severe diseases such as necrotizing fasciitis and Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS). Although rare, these conditions may be deadly if not treated immediately.
Why are we seeing an increase in cases with invasive Group A Streptococcal infection (iGAS)?
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), notifications of invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) infection and scarlet fever not only present themselves earlier than usual but also are higher than expected for this point in the season. Indeed, with 509 notifications so far reported in this season, laboratory notifications of iGAS are higher than those recorded over the last five seasons in England. The rate of iGAS also appears to have increased in all age groups compared to the pre-pandemic average. Experts argue that a new strain of bacteria does not cause the current situation. Instead, it is hypothesized that the upsurge in iGAS cases may derive from waning immunity against the infection following the pandemic measures and may reflect increases in the circulation of respiratory viruses
How to test for and treat Streptococcus A (Strep A) infections?
Although early-stage clinical trials are underway, no vaccine is currently available for Streptococcus A (Strep A) infections. The treatment of Streptococcus A (Strep A) infections usually involves the use of prescribed antibiotics. Although current results from routine laboratory surveillance demonstrate partial resistance against tetracycline (25%), erythromycin (7%), and clindamycin (7%), all isolates were found to remain universally susceptible to penicillin. Another critical aspect of disease prevention and infection control is testing. Various testing methods are available, especially for those at higher risk of developing Invasive group A streptococcal infection (iGAS). Our Strep A Rapid Test Kit detects Group A Streptococcal (Strep A) antigen with high levels of accuracy and delivers results in minutes.