The human body is a huge battleground for seemingly insignificant organisms – viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites. We live in harmony with them, they colonize us or attack us, directly or in times of weakness, in epidemics or sporadically, in warm or in cold seasons. And it is paradoxical and frustrating that sometimes, despite the advances in diagnostic and treatment facilities, the accessibility of health services and creating a true industry in this segment, we cannot thoroughly eliminate this danger. It is fascinating to see the limits of science against the versatility and adaptability of microorganisms. It is also interesting that we are still discovering, after decades of studies, news concerning not only their structure or physiology, but also new medical conditions they cause in humans. This is also the case for streptococci.
18 Groups of Streptococci
There are 18 groups of streptococci, numbered from A to H and K for T. In turn, these groups are divided into several types (group A has, for example, over 80 serotypes). There are other classification criteria, such as the ability of haemolysis (beta streptococci – which in the lab environment make total hemolysis and are the most dangerous, alpha – produce incomplete hemolysis, or gama – do not produce hemolysis). Some streptococci simply cannot be classified by these criteria. In the past it was thought that human pathology is determined exclusively by the group A streptococci. However, studies published since the ’70s found that other groups of streptococci – B, D, C, G, F, etc. can sometimes cause dangerous diseases.
The Good and the Bad Streptococci
Streptococci are part of the body’s normal microbial flora. For example, strep viridians can be found in the mouth or gut, and D streptococci live in the intestines; if they enter the blood stream and colonize other areas, they may become pathogenic. A streptococcus, which is found in the throat and airways, are however, pathogenic, and the people who carry them are either sick or healthy carriers who can spread the disease.
Streptococcus group A (beta hemolytic) is responsible for about 90% of the suffering that these germs cause in people. They can trigger a variety of types of infections: in ENT (rhinitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, adenoid, sinusitis, otitis, mastoiditis), respiratory (laryngitis, bronchitis, pneumonia), cardiovascular (endocarditis, pericarditis), joints, skin (impetigo, erysipelas, cellulitis, flegmoane, abscesses), digestive (poisoning, cholecystitis, appendicitis, abscesses, peritonitis, etc..) genito-urinary (kidney infection, bladder, uterus), nervous system (meningitis).
Also, strep A is involved in scarlet, but also in some very serious states, such as septicemia (where there is a massive presence of bacteria in the blood response to a violent reaction from the body), toxic shock (multiple organ failure with renal, hepatic, respiratory) or necrotizing fasciitis: when the bacteria rapidly destroys large areas of muscle, fat, skin leading to disfigurement.
Streptococci can lead to serious skin conditions such as streptococcal skin infections – behind the ear, in the groin area, under breasts. Streptococci can also produce cellulitis, an infection that progresses in the deep layers under the skin, the area becomes hard, red, and sore, with altered general condition, fever, chills.
November 24th, 2010
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