Group A Streptococcus (also known as GAS, group A strep, strep A, and Streptococcus pyogenes) is a bacterium which can colonise the throat, skin and anogenital tract. It is spread by close contact between individuals, through respiratory particles and direct skin contact. It can also be transmitted environmentally, for example through contact with contaminated objects, such as towels or bedding, or ingestion of food prepared by someone with the infection.
GAS causes a diverse range of skin, soft tissue and respiratory tract infections, including:
Due to rapidly increasing rates of GAS infections in children at the end of 2022, NHS England (NHSE) published interim clinical guidance on the diagnosis and treatment of children with GAS on 9 December 2022, which superseded the NICE guidance. In light of the decrease in rates of infection subsequently seen in early 2023, the NICE guidance has been reinstated and the interim guidance was withdrawn on 16 February 2023, as outlined in a statement from NHSE.
GAS is formally diagnosed by microbiological culture of samples taken from the affected site. Serology has specific clinical uses and can be discussed with a local infection specialist. GAS isolates from patients with healthcare-associated infections should be stored locally for a minimum of 6 months.