Group A Streptococcus Infections

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Just a Sore Throat or Strep Slideshow

What specialists treat group A streptococcal infections?

The specialists that treat group A streptococcal infections are infectious-disease specialists. However, depending on the severity and the type of infection, other specialists may be involved. For example, if hospitalization is needed, a critical-care specialist may join the team; if the person is pregnant, an OB/GYN specialist and/or a pediatric specialist may be needed. If surgical debridement is needed (necrotizing fasciitis), a surgical specialist would be consulted. Other types of medical specialists that may care for patients with GAS infections include emergency-medicine specialists, dermatologists, internal-medicine specialists, family-medicine specialists, nephrologists, and ear, nose, and throat specialists.

What complications are seen with group A streptococcal infections?

Many of the complications of GAS infections are considered to be diseases themselves. For example, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, necrotizing fasciitis, toxic shock syndrome, and many others can complicate or be triggered by GAS infection. Other complications can include the necessity to remove tonsils, renal damage, abscess formation, seizures, and other organ damage; some researchers suggest that severe GAS infections in children may lead to permanent or long-lasting brain changes. Although GAS infections in pregnant females during pregnancy and delivery are infrequent, they require immediate treatment to avoid complications such as endometritis, sepsis, necrotizing fasciitis, or toxic shock syndrome.

Is it possible to prevent group A streptococcal infections?

Many GAS infections can be prevented by reducing the spread of organisms from one person to another. Washing hands frequently is one of the major ways to reduce bacterial transmission. In addition, not sharing the same food and drink containers with others may also be effective. For those people with a GAS infection, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing can reduce the chance of transmitting the bacteria to others. Washing material that comes in contact with GAS-infected people is also another way to reduce exposure to GAS organisms.

Early treatment of deep infections (for example, excision, drainage, and antibiotic treatment of rectal abscesses) helps prevent invasive GAS disease. In addition, appropriate and timely removal of tampons and surgical packing may reduce the incidence of toxic shock syndrome.

Currently, there is no vaccine commercially available for GAS, but researchers are working on developing vaccines. At least four different major approaches are being researched. There has been some success with a related experimental vaccine against GAS bacterial antigens coupled to cholera toxin subunits. However, the GAS vaccine, prepared by recombinant technology by Vaxent, a vaccine company, may be going into human clinical trials. The new experimental vaccines may become available in the future to prevent GAS infections.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2016
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