Sepsis and Group A Streptococcus

Group A Streptococcus, also called group A strep, is a bacterium that can cause many different infections. These may cause sepsis.

Sepsis, which was often called blood poisoning, is a life-threatening emergency that happens when your body’s response to an infection damages vital organs and, often, causes death. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Suggested Citation:
Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Group A Streptococcus. 2024 https://www.sepsis.org/sepsisand/group-a-streptococcus/

Updated September 20, 2023.

 

More About Group A Streptococcus

Examples

Group A bacteria cause several types of infections, most commonly:

How group A strep spreads

Group A strep bacteria live in your nose and throat. They spread through droplets from coughing or sneezing, or by direct contact with the mucus. You might breathe droplets in if you’re close enough when an infected person coughs or sneezes. As well, the droplets may land on a solid object that you touch later. This type of contact may also occur if people who are infected blow their nose and touch an object before washing their hands. Either way, if the bacteria are transferred to your hand or fingers and you put your hand to your face, you can become infected.

If skin is infected, as with cellulitis or impetigo, the bacteria must come in contact with a spot of skin that had an open area, such as a cut, scrape, or bite. The opening may be so tiny that you didn’t notice anything beforehand. Impetigo is common among young children as they share toys and play together.

Invasive group A strep disease

While it’s common for group A strep to exist in your throat and nose, and on your skin, it is not common inside your body. When these bacteria enter your body, they can cause infections such as necrotizing fasciitis (often called “flesh eating disease”) and toxic shock syndrome. These are invasive group A strep infections.

Symptoms

Group A strep infection symptoms depend on where the infection is. The common symptoms include pain in the affected area, redness, and swelling. If the infection progresses or is a systemic infection, such as scarlet fever or toxic shock syndrome, you would develop fever, muscle aches, and flu-like symptoms.

Prevention

Preventing an infection from group A strep is the same as with other types of similar infections:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
  • Avoid people who are coughing, sneezing, or have other signs of a respiratory virus.
  • Clean open wounds with clean soap and water. You may want to use antibiotic ointment. Keep the wound protected (covered).
Treatment

Treatment for the infections include appropriate antibiotics. Sepsis caused by group A strep should be treated urgently with both antibiotics and IV fluids. For people with necrotizing fasciitis, surgery will remove the affected tissue.

Related Resources

Information Guide

Strep Throat

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Information Guide

Necrotizing Fasciitis

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Hello all, My life changed forever on June 30, 2022. I’m 59 and worked in construction as a tile setter. Came home not feeling well. My wife keeping a close eye on me called 911 about 10pm. I don’t remember anything from this point until I woke up 10 days later.. I was admitted into the ICU immediately.. Doctors could not identify the infection or its entry. Oxygen level was 72, elevated heart rate rising and blood pressure falling. They put me on a ventilator to allow them time to identify infection and to try to stabilize my body. They ... Read Full Story

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Other Topics

Group A Streptococcus