Group A streptococcus is the sixth deadliest microorganism worldwide

There are still many questions about pathogens such as group A streptococcus

Group A streptococcus is a germ that can cause a range of infections, from harmless throat infections to septicemia and puerperal fever. Calculations show that this bacterium ranks sixth among the most deadly microorganisms worldwide. However, interest in this pathogen is not enough, says Nina van Sorge, Professor of Microbiology in her inaugural lecture.

One possibility for mapping the spread of infectious diseases is ‘bacteriological surveillance’. According to Van Sorge, not the disease itself, but rather the causative factors are measured systematically. “For example, this has happened since 1959 with the dangerous disease-causing agent bacterial meningitis by the Dutch reference laboratory for bacterial meningitis. By monitoring disease burden and outbreaks, new vaccines are developed and new bacterial variants are discovered more quickly. Schedules can be adjusted Vaccinate accordingly.”

disturbing messages
Van Sorge would like to see more interest in Group A streptococcus. In April 2022, there were disturbing reports in the newspaper of an increase in the number of serious infections with this pathogen, especially among children. “Then the disease burden in the Netherlands is not so bad, we think. It is estimated that every year half a million people die worldwide from infections caused by group A bacteria.” However, there is a significant lack of interest in these bacteria, she points out: “Only three diseases are reported, while the bacteria can cause many life-threatening conditions.”

prevent spread
In order to gather more information about the disease burden of the bacteria, Van Sorg’s group, along with colleagues from St. Anthony’s Hospital in Neugen, UMC Utrecht and RIVM, began bacteriological surveillance for Group A streptococcus in 2019. Although it is not expected that Getting a vaccine for another ten years, Van Sorge hopes to gather enough information about group A bacteria so that an informed decision can be made by then whether or not to offer a vaccine. Very early on, based on bacteriological surveillance, a decision can be made, for example, to treat companions of infected people with antibiotics as a precaution to prevent the spread of disease.

More questions
For Van Sorge, there are still many questions about pathogens such as Group A streptococcus, which she hopes to answer with basic research in the future. Like: Why do bacteria keep one person calm while another gets sick? Van Sorge: “With my microbiology chair, we approach this question from two sides. We look from bacteria: does disease arise from certain characteristics of the bacteria? But we also investigate whether the host has holes in its defenses against specific bacteria, which increases risk of serious infection. In the future, I will focus more on the protective role of the microbiome: With which microorganisms can we influence the immune system to increase our resistance to infection?”

According to Van Sorge, extensive collaboration with clinicians, patient associations, and scientists from other disciplines is necessary to solve complex puzzles like these: “It is not an individual sport; it is not an individual sport.” It is a true team sport.”

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Group A Streptococcus: Sixth Deadliest Microorganism Worldwide
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