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Scarlet Fever is making a Comeback due to Antibiotic Resistance, Researchers Say

Update Date: Nov 05, 2015 11:37 AM EST

Scarlet fever, a bacterial infection, is slowly making a comeback, Australian researchers said.

For this study, the research team from the University of Queensland tracked the incidence rate of scarlet fever. Scarlet fever is caused by group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria that can lead to symptoms such as a red rash, sore throat, fever, headache and nausea. The infection is most commonly seen in children between five and 12-years-old.

"We have not yet had an outbreak in Australia, but over the past five years there have been more than 5000 cases in Hong Kong (a 10-fold increase) and more than 100,000 cases in China," Professor Mark Walker said in the press release. "And an outbreak in the UK has resulted in 12,000 cases since last year."

The researchers looked at 25 samples taken from patients with confirmed scarlet fever and nine other samples collected from patients with a GAS infection. The samples all originated from China and Hong Kong. The researchers were able to tie the infection to a common strain that dated back to the 1980s.

The researchers found that along with the increase in the number of cases, there was also an increase in the bacteria's resistance to antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics, such as tetracycline, erythromycin and clindamycin, were no longer as effective. Penicillin was still a good treatment option for scarlet fever. However, the researchers noted that there is no telling whether or not the bacteria could soon enough develop resistance to penicillin.

"We now have a situation which may change the nature of the disease and make it resistant to broad-spectrum treatments normally prescribed for respiratory tract infections, such as in scarlet fever," lead author, Dr. Nouri Ben Zakour said and added, "Only a continued study of the patterns, causes and effects of health and diseases will determine the full impact these recent gene changes will have on the global GAS disease burden."

The study's findings were published in the journal, Scientific Reports.

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