Group A Streptococcus (GAS) strains are lately classified on the basis of sequence variations in the emm gene encoding the M protein, but despite the high number of distinct emm genotypes, the spectrum of phenotypes varying from invasive suppurative to non-suppurative GAS-related disorders has still to be defined. The relationship of GAS types with the uprising of acute rheumatic fever (ARF), a multisystemic disease caused by misdirected anti-GAS response in predisposed people, is also obscure. Studies published over the last 15 years were retrieved from PubMed using the keywords: "Streptococcus pyogenes" or "group A Streptococcus" and "acute rheumatic fever": the prevalence of peculiar emm types across different countries of the world is highly variable, depending on research designs, year of observation, country involved, patients' age, and gender. Most studies revealed that a relatively small number of specific emm/M protein types can be considered "rheumatogenic", as potentially characterized by the possibility of inducing ARF, with remarkable differences between developing and developed countries. The association between emm types and post-streptococcal manifestations is challenging, however surveillance of disease-causing variants in a specific community with high rate of ARF should be reinforced with the final goal of developing a potential primary prophylaxis against GAS infections.
- Rheumatic fever
- Streptococcus pyogenes