Strep A vaccine is 'desperately needed', Government adviser claims trends now
A vaccine capable of blunting the bacterial infection sweeping across Britain and killing nine children is desperately needed, a leading paediatrician claimed today.
Serious infections of Strep A infections are currently almost five times higher than levels seen pre-pandemic, official data shows.
Nine children have already died of the usually-harmless bug, with a five-year-old girl in Northern Ireland today becoming the latest victim. Health officials have admitted this winter's death toll, although low, is higher than expected.
One of the Government's top vaccine advisors has now called for a Strep A jab to be developed to maximise children's odds of beating the infection before it makes them seriously ill.
One of the Government's top vaccine advisors says a Strep A vaccine is desperately needed as the UK records the ninth death of a child from the bacterial infection
What is Strep A?
Group A Streptococcus (Group A Strep or Strep A) bacteria can cause many different infections.
The bacteria are commonly found in the throat and on the skin, and some people have no symptoms.
Infections cause by Strep A range from minor illnesses to serious and deadly diseases.
They include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.
While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria cause life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.
What is invasive Group A Streptococcal disease?
Invasive Group A Strep disease is sometimes a life-threatening infection in which the bacteria have invaded parts of the body, such as the blood, deep muscle or lungs.
Two of the most severe, but rare, forms of invasive disease are necrotising fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
Necrotising fasciitis is also known as the 'flesh-eating disease' and can occur if a wound gets infected.
Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is a rapidly progressing infection causing low blood pressure/shock and damage to organs such as the kidneys, liver and lungs.
This type of toxic shock has a high death rate.
Professor Adam Finn, who works at the University of Bristol, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme said Strep A had been neglected in terms of vaccine development.
'We don't see so much of it as we did historically it's something that we do see quite frequently in little bursts as the years go by,' he said.
'There is a desperate need to make a vaccine against this bug. It's a very neglected bug it causes a lot of problems, the most notable of which is rheumatic fever which is a problem in many children in poor countries.'
Rheumatic fever is a complication of a bacterial throat infection which can cause painful joints and heart problems.
It is not caused by the bacteria itself, but by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue as it fights off the infection, with experts unsure what exactly triggers this.
Professor Finn added that