Journal Article

Low Rates of Streptococcal Pharyngitis and High Rates of Pyoderma in Australian Aboriginal Communities Where Acute Rheumatic Fever Is Hyperendemic

Malcolm I. McDonald, Rebecca J. Towers, Ross M. Andrews, Norma Benger, Bart J. Currie and Jonathan R. Carapetis

in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Published on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America

Volume 43, issue 6, pages 683-689
Published in print September 2006 | ISSN: 1058-4838
Published online September 2006 | e-ISSN: 1537-6591 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/506938
Low Rates of Streptococcal Pharyngitis and High Rates of Pyoderma in Australian Aboriginal Communities Where Acute Rheumatic Fever Is Hyperendemic

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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.

Journal Article.  4665 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology

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