Severe infections with Group A streptococci, sometimes called “flesh-eating killer bacteria,” are considerably more common than expected in many countries. In an EU project covering 11 countries, headed by Lund University in Sweden, it was calculated that some 1,000 cases would be found over an initial 1½-year period. Fully 5,000 were identified.
Group A streptococci, GAS, can sometimes occur in the throat without the carrier noticing anything. In other cases, the bacteria can cause a benign form of strep throat or skin infection. But in some cases, partly depending on the nature of the bacterial strain, a throat or skin infection can lead to serious consequences, with chronic heart and kidney damage. An acute GAS infection of the skin, for instance, can also dig deeper and lead to the muscles’ being virtually eaten up by the bacteria. In other cases the bacteria can spread rapidly and the body’s fine blood vessels start to leak fluids, which can lead to loss of blood pressure and rapid death, even in a young and previously healthy person.
“Our study has attracted a lot of attention, and we have had to turn down a number of countries that have wanted to be included in the project afterward,” says Aftab Jasir from the Section for Bacteriology at Lund University. She and her colleague Claes Schalén act as coordinators of the EU study.
Ingela Bjoerck | alfa
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