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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Lindsey Rowe

I’m 35 and have been an ICU nurse for 13 years. I have taken care of many patients in septic shock. Yet when I was sent home from two ERs with a “just a virus” diagnosis, I didn’t think much of it. I was the sickest I had ever been, but if they thought I was okay? I must be. I woke up from a nap literally blue. Everything hurt, including wearing clothes. My husband luckily didn’t listen to me and immediately called 911. The paramedics who came couldn’t get my blood pressure to read. They had an even harder ... Read Full Story

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Mateo Rodriguez-Limon

My son Mateo went septic a month before his 2nd birthday. He complained of a pain in his knee and after a 6 hour visit to our local hospital with no outcome we took him to to the children’s hospital. They discovered osteomyelitis in his tibia and within hours he was in full septic shock.He had contracted strep A with no clue how he was not sick and he didn’t have any open wounds. (Sepsis and Group A Streptococcus, Sepsis and Septic Shock) He spent the next 5 weeks in the PICU where they did multiple different treatments to save ... Read Full Story

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Amanda Symns Brooks

The night I gave birth to my son I started feeling very weird. I had uncontrollable shaking and I could not get warm. I spent hours in the shower even running the hot water out. The nurses and my OBGYN would not listen to my concerns saying it was just my hormones. I was discharged home and continued to get worse over the week. (Sepsis and Pregnancy & Childbirth) I was at the local clinic on a Friday with a 60/40 blood pressure and was still sent home. I returned the next day to the ER with a temp of ... Read Full Story

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Aurelia C.

The summer of 2023, my four-year-old daughter, Aurelia, had been dealing with a slight cough for a few days. No other symptoms, no fever. The day everything went wrong, we got up as usual and she seemed fine. I was driving her to an appointment a few hours away when she began vomiting. She felt warm, so I stopped at the nearest pediatric urgent care. They told me she was fine and that it was probably just a virus. They gave her some meds for the vomiting so that I could get her home. When I got her home, her ... Read Full Story

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Elizabeth B.

I was diagnosed with sepsis along with Strep A and toxic shock two days after giving birth to my beautiful daughter. (Sepsis and Group A Streptococcus, Sepsis and Toxic Shock Syndrome, Sepsis and Pregnancy & Childbirth) I was sent to the ER in Dallas, Texas, where I was intubated and in a medically induced coma for 8 days. I had an infection in my vagina that came from birth, resulting in five surgeries later to finally contain the infection. I was on continuous dialysis for 5 days and 3 days of intermittent dialysis. Due to the pressers I was on ... Read Full Story

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Other Topics

Group A Streptococcus