Streptococcal pharyngitis, commonly known as strep throat, is one of the commonest bacterial diseases of humans, being particularly common in children of school age. The primary means of transmission is by the inhalation from coughs and sneezes of respiratory droplets containing Streptococcus pyogenes (p-haemolytic type A streptococci), although other routes (kissing, infected handkerchiefs) are possible. The primary symptoms are a red and raw throat (and/or tonsils), accompanied by headaches and fever. S. pyogenes attaches to the throat mucosa, stimulating an inflammatory response and secreting virulence factors that destroy host blood cells. Although self-limiting within a week or so, strep throat should be treated with penicillin or erythromycin as more serious streptococcal diseases such as scarlet fever and rheumatic fever may follow if it is left untreated.
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