Low rates of streptococcal pharyngitis and high rates of pyoderma in Australian aboriginal communities where acute rheumatic fever is hyperendemic

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Abstract

Background. Acute rheumatic fever is a major cause of heart disease in Aboriginal Australians. The epidemiology differs from that observed in regions with temperate climates; streptococcal pharyngitis is reportedly rare, and pyoderma is highly prevalent. A link between pyoderma and acute rheumatic fever has been proposed but is yet to be proven. Group C β-hemolytic streptococci and group G β-hemolytic streptococci have also been also implicated in the pathogenesis. Methods. Monthly, prospective surveillance of selected households was conducted in 3 remote Aboriginal communities. People were questioned about sore throat and pyoderma; swab specimens were obtained from all throats and any pyoderma lesions. Household population density was determined. Results. From data collected during 531 household visits, the childhood incidence of sore throat was calculated to be 8 cases per 100 person-years, with no cases of symptomatic group A β-hemolytic streptococci pharyngitis. The median point prevalence for throat carriage was 3.7% for group A β-hemolytic streptococci, 0.7% for group C β-hemolytic streptococci, and 5.1% for group G β-hemolytic streptococci. Group A β-hemolytic streptococci were recovered from the throats of 19.5% of children at some time during the study. There was no seasonal trend or correlation with overcrowding. Almost 40% of children had pyoderma at least once, and the prevalence was greatest during the dry season. In community 1, the prevalence of pyoderma correlated with household crowding. Group C and G β-hemolytic streptococci were rarely recovered from pyoderma lesions. Conclusions. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that recurrent skin infections immunize against throat colonization and infection. High rates of acute rheumatic fever were not driven by symptomatic group A β-hemolytic streptococci throat infection. Group G and C β-hemolytic streptococci were found in the throat but rarely in pyoderma lesions. © 2006 by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. All rights reserved.

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McDonald, M. I., Towers, R. J., Andrews, R. M., Benger, N., Currie, B. J., & Carapetis, J. R. (2006). Low rates of streptococcal pharyngitis and high rates of pyoderma in Australian aboriginal communities where acute rheumatic fever is hyperendemic. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 43(6), 683–689. https://doi.org/10.1086/506938

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