Beginnings Reporting on science and intelligent design

Scarlet fever reemerging

Science | Researchers look into the source of the outbreaks
by Julie Borg
Posted 10/15/20, 12:00 pm

Supercharged bacterial clones appear responsible for new cases of scarlet fever.

By 1940, antibiotics had nearly eradicated the once-deadly childhood disease. But in 2011, a scarlet fever epidemic in Asia caught health authorities by surprise. A second outbreak occurred in the United Kingdom in 2014. By 2018, the U.K. National Health Service reported a 68 percent increase in the number of cases. “This global reemergence of scarlet fever has caused a more than five-fold increase in disease rate and more than 600,000 cases around the world,” said Stephan Brouwer, a University of Queensland researcher.

An international group of scientists led by the University of Queensland discovered that a viral infection strengthened some strains of the bacteria responsible for scarlet fever, according to their Oct. 6 study in Nature Communications.

The group of viruses carried a gene mutation that allowed them to produce three new toxins called superantigens. When a virus attacked a ball-shaped Group A strep, or Streptococcus pyogenes, the bacterium incorporated the virus’s own DNA into its own in a process called horizontal gene transfer. This allowed the scarlet-fever-causing bacterium and its future clones to produce the toxins, as well.

The toxins give A strep new ways to enter a child’s tissues and escape the white blood cells that are part of the body’s immune defense. The researchers attribute the uptick of scarlet fever to these toxin-producing bacteria. When they used genetic editing to disable the mutated genes, the strains lost their ability to invade animal models in the lab, Live Science reported.

Scarlet fever mostly affects children 2-10 years old and can cause sore throat, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, coughing, sneezing, and a telltale red rash. Severe cases can result in toxic shock and organ failure. Before the advent of antibiotics, deadly complications such as brain abscess, meningitis, lung abscess, pneumonia, osteomyelitis (bone infection), and middle ear and soft tissue infections could develop following the illness.

Researchers have not developed a vaccine to prevent scarlet fever. The microbe is beginning to develop resistance to some antibiotics, study co-author Mark Walker told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Julie Borg

Julie is a World Journalism Institute graduate. She covers science and intelligent design for WORLD and is a clinical psychologist. Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.

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  • Molly C
    Posted: Thu, 10/15/2020 11:53 pm

    I'm going to guess this new strep is ALSO from the same source as our yearly flu variants and the corona viruses.  The magic-cures markets of China, endorsed by the CCP because the various licenses and taxes help fill their coffers.  A magic potion that is supposed to cure a difficult disease consists of some part of a rare or wild animal (rhino horn, etc.).  This means that wild animals are caught and caged, usually in deplorable conditions.  (The Bible shows a distinction between wild animals and livestock, Gen 1:24.) The animals get diseases they would never get in the wild. Then they go to market, where their cages are stacked, and blood, feces, pus, etc. drops from one to another.  These so-called 'wet markets' are where the experts from the CDC and WHO start looking for next year's flu.  I'll guess this variant strep starts there, too.  WE WOULD NOT NEED A YEARLY FLU VACCINATION if those magic-cures markets ended.

  •  CherylQuilts's picture
    Posted: Fri, 10/16/2020 02:33 pm

    This is interesting to me, because I had Scarlet Fever when I was a child back in the '50s. I am the only daughter of four who got it, and I am the only one who has had numerous autoimmune issues. WIll be watching more about this. Thank you, Julie, for this report. Blessings to you! 

  • Fuzzyface
    Posted: Fri, 10/16/2020 04:37 pm

    My dad had it when he was a kid (that would have probably been early 1940s.)  I remember him saying he was the sickest he'd ever been.  Part of the time he was afraid he was going to die, then he was afraid he wasn't going to die.  It left him with reduced hearing and a ruptured ear drum that always got infected if he went swimming.  The eardrum miraclulously healed itself when he was in his 50s.