Deadly streptococci A in children: how to spot the symptoms and make the right diagnosis

Deadly streptococci A in children: how to spot the symptoms and make the right diagnosis

A dozen children have died in France, the United Kingdom and Spain after an invasive infection with this bacterium. How to explain such an increase in contamination and above all how to treat yourself in time?

At least six children have died in the United Kingdom, two in France and two in Spain: invasive infections with streptococcus A have been on the rise for a few weeks.

So much so that the health authorities have taken some measures and launched investigations to understand this phenomenon which can be worrying.

This Monday, December 5, 2023, the Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon via the Corruss (operational center for regulation and response to health and social emergencies) issued an urgent notice intended for healthcare professionals.

Symptoms Due to Strep A Infection

Streptococcus A is a bacterium that is primarily responsible for tonsillitis in both children and adults. Symptoms are classic: ffever, sore throat, difficulty in swallowing.

Streptococcus A is also responsible for scarlet fever which is angina presenting with skin rash and of theimpetigo (skin infection).

When the child presents these symptoms, it is necessary to consult a doctor so that he identifies if it corresponds to a viral infection, therefore in these cases it is not about streptococcus or if it is about a bacterial infection and at that time it should be treated with antibiotics.

severe form

If the child (or adult) is not treated, the streptococcal A infection can become invasive, which means “it passes into the blood and can cause sepsis”, as Brigitte Virey points out, President of the National Union of Pediatricians.

This serious form can be avoided by being very easily treated with antibiotic treatment.

Essential diagnosis

It is up to the doctor to make the diagnosis. Moreover, the Director General of Health has rightly urged professionals to remain alert to these infections and especially to this multiplication of cases.

“As a pediatrician, we are always very vigilantbut with the official communication we will be more so”, specifies a Montpellier pediatrician.

It is therefore imperative in the event of symptoms of angina that doctors carry out what they call a “streptotest”.

“It’s a throat swabthe test can be done in an office – or even in a pharmacy – and allows distinguish between viral and bacterial infection“, specifies the pediatrician Brigitte Virey.

Before adding: “It is important to do so, it is provided by Health Insurance to regulate the basic taking of antibiotics, especially with the shortage of amoxicillin.”


Faced with streptococcus A, all you need is an antibiotic treatment such asamoxicillin or the penicillin.

Not a strain more virulent than usual

Even if for the moment there is not too much hindsight on these invasive infections, the press release from the General Directorate of Health explains: “The provisional results of the epidemiological investigations carried out by Public Health France and of the characterization of the strains by the Center National Streptococcal Reference List suggest that these cases are unrelated and that these reports are probably not due to the emergence of a more virulent strain but rather an unusual increase in the number of cases, related to different strains”.

It would therefore not be a more dangerous strain, but rather the multiplication of cases of classic streptococcal infections which logically leads to an increase in cases of invasive streptococcal infections.

Why such a multiplication of cases?

One of the explanations given by the president of the national union of pediatricians is that this multiplication of infections, with streptococcus as with other infectious diseases in children, comes from the barrier gestures carried out in recent years and their current relaxation.

Basically, we didn’t make enough antibodies last year, so this year there is an upsurge in infections. Which still leads to the production of immunity…

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