What is Streptococci Group A?

What is Streptococci Group A?

Written by Charlotte Broadbent. Reviewed by Conor McSorley (2223070)

Group A Streptococci (Strep A) are a common bacteria that usually cause a mild infection, easily treated with antibiotics. Lots of us carry the bacteria in our throats and it often doesn’t result in illness, however, more serious infections can occur if you are exposed to an invasive form of the bacteria. 

An invasive Strep A infection is unique, as it gets into places it wouldn’t normally be found, like the lungs or the bloodstream, once there it has the ability to cause a more severe infection. In rare cases these infections can be fatal.

Strep A infections are uncommon in adults, mostly emerge in children aged 5 to 15 years old, and are very rare in children under 3.

It is important to remember that most children who are infected with Strep A will only experience a mild infection. 

What is a Strep A infection?

Strep A bacteria invades your body and is responsible for causing milder respiratory and skin infections, such as tonsillitis, scarlet fever and impetigo among others. Often you will experience unpleasant symptoms if you are infected, however a mild illness like tonsillitis can be treated with antibiotics and stops being contagious around 24 hours after initiating treatment.

Symptoms of a Strep A infection include:

  • Fever (High Temperature)
  • Sore Throat
  • Rash
  • Pain
  • Swollen neck glands
  • Muscle Aches
  • Nausea and Vomiting

Scarlet Fever

There recently has been an increase in cases of scarlet fever (caused by the Strep A bacterium) in the UK: 851 cases were reported in a week, compared to an average of 186 for previous years. It isn’t possible to say for certain what is causing the higher than usual rates of infection, however reduced social mixing over previous years may be a factor.

It is believed that there are currently high amounts of circulating strep A causing this increase in cases; There is currently no evidence that a new strain is circulating.

Look out for symptoms of scarlet fever in your child, if you believe your child is seriously unwell, trust your judgement and contact your GP or NHS 111 as soon as you can. Starting antibiotics early greatly improves their success rate.