Expert reaction to invasive Group A streptococcus (iGAS) cases in Essex among elderly people receiving treatment for wounds in care homes and in their own homes.
Dr Claire Turner, Research Fellow, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, said:
“Invasive group A streptococcal infection is extremely rare but sudden local increases in disease such as this can sometimes occur. Although this is a serious increase in cases it is mainly confined to vulnerable people and therefore the wider public should not be concerned. The authorities will be working hard to put in place infection control measures. They will also be collecting isolates for identification and typing in order to confirm the strains are linked and that this is an outbreak situation. The information will further aid efforts to break transmission and prevent further infections.”
Dr Jorg Hoffmann, Deputy Director Health Protection for Public Health England East of England, said:
“Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have become ill or who have died. Public Health England is working closely to support NHSE/I, Mid Essex CCG and provider colleagues and local authorities in the area affected to investigate the cause of the infection and prevent more people becoming unwell. All those affected are in vulnerable groups, which puts them at higher risk for what is normally a rarer form of Group A Streptococcal infection. I would like to emphasise that the risk of contracting iGAS is very low for healthy people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective, if started early enough. This is still an evolving situation and colleagues in the provider organisation, the CCG , NHSE/I and PHE are working very hard to contain it.”
Prof Brendan Wren, Dean of Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:
“Invasive Group A strep (iGAS) are bacteria found in the natural environment and can colonise the throats and skin of humans. The bacteria are usually harmless, but if they penetrate into the bloodstream, they can cause life-threatening disease including necrotizing fasciitis. Although this outcome is rare, iGAS can release toxins that affect nearby tissue and has previously been referred to as a ‘flesh-eating bug’.
“The current outbreak has to date affected 32 patients who may be particularly susceptible to infection and has probably been transmitted through skin contact including kissing. Healthy individuals would unlikely be affected unless they have a cut or abrasion. The reported incidence of iGAS in the UK has increased in recent years and although antibiotic treatment is available there is no current vaccine.”
Prof Brendan Wren: “I declare that I don’t have any conflicts of interest.”