Strep throat making a comeback? Bacteria developing resistance to our ‘go-to’ antibiotics

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Image: Mansoor Pediatrics

Strep is generally considered a known entity—with a known, reliable treatment. Then came two serious Strep A infections in Seattle, which were described in a paper published last October.

The two Strep A infections weren’t totally resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics—that would have been front page news outside the microbiology community, as well as inside it. But they did display markedly more resistance to the drugs than normal. That was disturbing enough to inspire [pathologist James] Musser and a team of international colleagues to start digging deeper. Their first results, published [January 29] in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, show definitively that some strains of Strep A bacteria are less than 100-percent susceptible to beta-lactam antibiotics.

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A good way to decrease the amount of beta-lactam antibiotics that Strep A strains are exposed to would be to produce a vaccine, says Musser. Until recently, it hasn’t been a high priority on researchers’ radars, because it was thought that beta-lactam antibiotics worked against all forms of strep. However, several labs are working on developing a vaccine, and [pathologist Gregory] Tyrell said that if Strep A was to become wholly beta-lactam resistant—the worst-case scenario—it would be possible to quickly develop a response.

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