Spencer RC.: Invasive streptococc European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases. 14 Suppl. 1:S26-32, 1995. Before the introduction of antibiotics, serious infections caused by Streptococcus pyogenes (Lancefield Group A streptococci) were common. Before World War II, this bacterium was responsible for as many as 50% of postpartum deaths and was the major cause of death in patients with burns. Also common were the sequelae of streptococcal infections-rheumatic fever and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis. With the use of penicillin, however, Streptococcus pyogenes was believed to be virtually eliminated as a pathogen. The organism was consigned to the history books, but not for long. In the mid-1980s, focal resurgences of rheumatic fever began to be reported from different areas in the USA, such as Salt Lake City, Utah. In such communities, where increases in cases of rheumatic fever had been reported, the serotypes M-1, 3, 5, 6 and 18 were isolated which, on culture, produced characteristic mucoid colonies. At the same time, reports of increases in invasive streptococcal disease began to surface in both the US and Europe. Two syndromes were described; invasive streptococcal infection, occurring in previously healthy children and adults, commonly associated with septicaemia resulting from a deep focus of infection such as bone or lung; and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, involving a cutaneous focus, accompanied by necrotizing or bullous soft tissue changes. Septicaemia is rare in streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, but the most characteristic feature is one of rapidly progressing multi-organ failure. A high proportion of the strains of Streptococcus pyogenes associated with this condition are serotype M-1, and fatality rates approaching 50% have been reported.
Cunningham MW.: Pathogenesis of group A streptococcal infections. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 13):470-511, 2000 Group A streptococci are model extracellular gram-positive pathogens responsible for pharyngitis, impetigo, rheumatic fever, and acute glomerulonephritis. A resurgence of invasive streptococcal diseases and rheumatic fever has appeared in outbreaks over the past 10 years, with a predominant M1 serotype as well as others identified with the outbreaks. Emm (M protein) gene sequencing has changed serotyping, and new virulence genes and new virulence regulatory networks have been defined. The emm gene superfamily has expanded to include antiphagocytic molecules and immunoglobulin-binding proteins with common structural features. At least nine superantigens have been characterized, all of which may contribute to toxic streptococcal syndrome. An emerging theme is the dichotomy between skin and throat strains in their epidemiology and genetic makeup. Eleven adhesions have been reported, and surface plasmin-binding proteins have been defined. The strong resistance of the group A streptococcus to phagocytosis is related to factor H and fibrinogen binding by M protein and to disarming complement component C5a by the C5a peptidase. Molecular mimicry appears to play a role in autoimmune mechanisms involved in rheumatic fever, while nephritis strain-associated proteins may lead to immune-mediated acute glomerulonephritis. Vaccine strategies have focused on recombinant M protein and C5a peptidase vaccines, and mucosal vaccine delivery systems are under investigation.