New streptococcal bacteria variant identified

A sharp rise in streptococcal bacteria infections from between 1998 and 2009 caused scientists to take a closer look at the strain resposible, revealing a new variant that likely triggered the rise in infections.

Researchers from Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London and Public Health England in London performed genetic sequencing on that particularly troublesome strain — emm89 — and found a new subtype of bacteria that coincided with the 17-year spike.

Emm89 is classified within Group A streptococcus, a bacterial strain that causes around 600 million infections per year worldwide. The new subtype has evolved two major differences from the other bacteria within the strain:

• It produces more toxin.
• It has lost its outer capsule, which allows it to stick to surfaces more effectively. This may result in better transmission and less obstructed passage into human cells.

"We know very little about how group A streptococcus is transmitted from person to person," Shiranee Sriskandan, senior author of the study and medical professor at Imperial College London, said in a statement. "We need to look into this more deeply and think about better ways to prevent transmission."

More articles on infection control:
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7 recent studies, stories on C. diff 

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