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What is streptococcus?

The family of streptococci includes 13 genera (including Gemella, Enterococcus, Lactococcus and Streptococcus). The streptococcus species most frequently requiring medical attention is Streptococcus (S.) pyogenes, which is called “Group A Streptococcus” (GAS).

The almost exclusively human pathogenic bacterium S. pyogenes can cause a variety of disease symptoms, including local purulent infections of the skin or throat, immunological diseases, generalized disease symptoms and toxin-induced infections, such as scarlet fever or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS).

How is streptococcus transmitted?

Inflammations of the throat caused by streptococci are usually transmitted by direct or indirect contact with contaminated persons or surfaces, rarely through droplet infections. Pyoderma (purulent inflammation of the skin) occurs only through direct skin contact. In very rare cases streptococci are also transmitted by contaminated food or water.

Dogs and cats can be also infected through very close physical contact, although the usual reservoir for S. pyogenes is the human body. The incubation period is one to three days.

What are symptoms of the disease?

The bacteria can cause tissue infections and diseases of throat and skin. Scarlet fever, for example, is also a streptococcal infection that manifests itself as angina (acute pharyngitis). Untreated infections caused by streptococci can lead to rheumatic fever (ARF), acute glomerulonephritis (AGN, a disease of the kidneys’ glomeruli), neurological abnormalities (obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD) and movement disorders (for example, athetosis or chorea). Patients with an untreated acute streptococcal infection can be contagious for up to three weeks; with purulent excrements even longer. If a patient is treated directly with an antibiotic, pharyngitis is no longer contagious after just 24 hours.

Significance for infections in hospitals and in the outpatient sector

S. pyogenes infections should be diagnosed as quickly as possible and treated immediately with antibiotics to prevent secondary diseases. The occurrence of S. pyogenes infections in hospitals requires special hygiene measures. Patients must be isolated and basic hygiene measures (hand disinfection and disinfection of surfaces close to the patient) must be carried out. There is no obligation to report diseases or pathogens in Germany. However, should S. pyogenes infections occur in a community facility, the responsible health authority has to be informed immediately.

Survival time of pathogens on inanimate surfaces

3 days to 6.5 months.

Disinfectant effectiveness for prevention

The required spectrum of activity against streptococci is: bactericidal

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