Group A Streptococcus (GAS) Soft-tissue Infections: A Lethal Organism on the Rise

Bochicchio, Grant V.; Henry, Sharon; Scalea, Thomas; Joshi, Mrinal; Joshi, Manjari
November 2001
American Surgeon;Nov2001, Vol. 67 Issue 11, p1089
Academic Journal
Several reports over the past decade have suggested that there has been an increase in the number of invasive streptococcal infections with young children and the elderly being at the highest risk. We evaluated the incidence of group A Streptococcus (GAS) and compared it with historic data collected at our institution. Prospective data were collected on patients diagnosed with GAS (with and without shock) admitted to a tertiary-care center from July 1995 to July 2000. Each patient was followed by an infectious disease specialist throughout the hospital stay. Definitions of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were used. Thirty-eight patients (mean age of 39 +/- 12) presenting with GAS soft-tissue infections were admitted to our institution over a 5-year period (7.6 patients per year). Fourteen (37%) were diagnosed with STSS. This represents a greater than fourfold increase in the average number of cases per year of patients diagnosed with GAS and a nearly 4.5 times greater increase in the annual number of patients diagnosed with STSS. The overall mortality of patients diagnosed with GAS was 13 per cent, which increased to 36 per cent in patients diagnosed with STSS. We conclude that there has been a significant increase in the incidence of GAS soft-tissue infections over the past 5 years at our institution. This may represent a new virulent strain, as the majority of these infections did not occur in typical high-risk patients at the extremes of their lives. Further epidemiologic population-based studies are needed to further delineate the severe nature of this problem.


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