Group A Streptococcus is a bacterium that can cause a wide range of infections. People may also carry group A streptococci in the throat or on the skin and have no symptoms of illness. Most GAS infections are relatively mild illnesses such as strep throat or a skin infection called impetigo. However these bacteria can cause severe or even life threatening diseases. These bacteria are spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of people who are sick with a GAS infection or through contact with infected wounds or sores on the skin. Persons who carry the bacteria in their throat or on their skin can also be contagious even in the absence of symptoms.
Severe life threatening disease occurs usually when these bacteria gain access to previously sterile parts of the body and is therefore termed invasive. The least common but most severe forms of this invasive disease include Necrotizing Fasciitis which rapidly destroys muscle, fat and skin tissues and the toxic shock syndrome which leads to end organ damage such as kidney and liver failure.
Different modalities include for treating these serious infections including antibiotics and supportive care with close monitoring in an intensive care unit. For people with necrotizing fasciitis, early and aggressive surgery is often needed to remove damaged tissue and stop disease spread. Early treatment may reduce the risk of death from invasive group A streptococcal disease. However, even the best medical care does not prevent death in every case.