Streptococcus pyogenes is a species of Gram-positive bacteria. t is clinically important for humans. It is an infrequent, but usually pathogenic, part of the skin microbiota.
S. pyogenes is the cause of many human diseases, ranging from mild superficial skin infections to life-threatening systemic diseases. Infections typically begin in the throat or skin. The most striking sign is a strawberry-like rash. Examples of mild S. pyogenes infections include pharyngitis (strep throat) and localized skin infection (impetigo). Erysipelas and cellulitis are characterized by multiplication and lateral spread of S. pyogenes in deep layers of the skin. S. pyogenes invasion and multiplication in the fascia can lead to necrotizing fasciitis. The bacterium is found in neonatal infections.
Infections due to certain strains of S. pyogenes can be associated with the release of bacterial toxins. Throat infections associated with release of certain toxins lead to scarlet fever. Other toxigenic S. pyogenes infections may lead to streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, which can be life-threatening.
S. pyogenes can also cause disease in the form of post-infectious “non-pyogenic” (not associated with local bacterial multiplication and pus formation) syndromes. These autoimmune-mediated complications follow a small percentage of infections and include rheumatic fever and acute post-infectious glomerulonephritis. Both conditions appear several weeks following the initial streptococcal infection. Rheumatic fever is characterized by inflammation of the joints and/or heart following an episode of streptococcal pharyngitis. Acute glomerulonephritis, inflammation of the renal glomerulus, can follow streptococcal pharyngitis or skin infection.