Recent Paper Calls For Greater Focus On Strep Throat In Developing World

“Getting parents to take sore throats more seriously and treating them more aggressively with penicillin could save thousands of lives in poor countries relatively cheaply, doctors from India and South Africa say,” the New York Times reports. Noting “[s]trep throat [is] caused by Group A streptococcus bacteria [that] can lead to rheumatic heart disease, in which antibodies produced by the immune system also attack the heart muscle and the joints,” the newspaper writes, “The authors of a recent paper [.pdf] in the journal Global Heart estimate that a quarter of all sore throats are caused by strep A bacteria and that such infections lead to as many as 500,000 deaths a year, almost all of them in poor countries.” The newspaper notes, “[s]trep tests available in these countries usually take too much time, requiring days to observe the growth of bacteria,” adding, “Cuba, Costa Rica and Martinique have sharply reduced rheumatic fever by public education about sore throat, screening for strep by symptoms, and treating quickly” with a penicillin shot (McNeil, 10/22).