Streptococcus A genus of gram-positive bacteria classified by letters from A to T. The various species occur in pairs, short chains, and chains. Many of the species can cause disease in humans. See also streptococcal infections; strep throat.
streptococcus, group A (GAS) Group-A strep are bacteria that are responsible for most cases of strep illness. Many people carry the bacteria in the throat or skin and have no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they cause relatively mild illnesses. Other strep serogroups (B, C, D, and G) may also cause infection. Group-B strep cause most of the strep infections in newborns and mothers who have just delivered.
Syndromes caused by group-A strep include strep throat (scarlet fever and rheumatic fever are rare complications, usually preceded by a sore throat); skin infections (erysipelas/cellulitis and impetigo), and pneumonia.
Occasionally, group-A bacteria can cause much more severe—even life-threatening— diseases, such as necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria), bacteremia, and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS).
Invasive GAS disease is a severe, sometimes life-threatening infection in which the bacteria have spread to other parts of the body, such as the blood, muscle, and fat tissue or the lungs. Two of the most severe (but least common) forms are necrotizing fasciitis (infection of muscle and fat tissue) and toxic shock syndrome. About 20 percent of patients with necrotizing fasciitis and 60 percent of those with STSS will die; only 10 to 15 percent of those with other forms of invasive group-A strep die.
About 10,000 to 15,000 cases of invasive GAS occur in the United States each year, causing more than 2,000 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control estimates between 500 and 1,500 cases of necrotizing fasciitis and 2,000 to 3,000 cases of STSS each year in the United States; on the other hand, there are several million cases of strep throat and impetigo each year.
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