Vital research aiming to improve the treatment of potentially deadly Group A Streptococcus (Strep A) has been awarded $820,000 in the latest round of National Health and Medicine Research Council’s Ideas Grants.
“We have recently discovered that some strains of Strep A bacteria have the ability to ‘evade’ the effects of penicillin therapy, so this research project aims to help us learn more about how this new mechanism of AMR works, and if it applies to other types of antibiotics as well,"Dr Timothy Barnett
Responsible for causing sore throats, scarlet fever and painful skin sores, recurrent Strep A infections can lead to multiple life-threatening diseases including sepsis, rheumatic heart disease, kidney failure and premature death, but increasing rates of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) make it challenging for clinicians to prescribe the most effective treatment.
Lead researcher Dr Timothy Barnett, from the Strep A Pathogenesis and Diagnostics team at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, based at Telethon Kids Institute, and The University of Western Australia’s School of Biomedical Sciences, will investigate why 10 to 20 per cent of Strep A infections recur after being treated with penicillin.
“We know Strep A bacteria is sensitive to treatment with penicillin – this has been the standard first line treatment for over 70 years – but despite receiving the recommended course of antibiotics, a significant number of patients will experience recurrent infections soon afterwards,” Dr Barnett said.
Image: Lead researcher of the study, Dr Timothy Barnett
“We have recently discovered that some strains of Strep A bacteria have the ability to ‘evade’ the effects of penicillin therapy, so this research project aims to help us learn more about how this new mechanism of AMR works, and if it applies to other types of antibiotics as well.
“Using this knowledge, we aim to develop a rapid, point-of-care test that can be used in GP clinics and remote community health clinics to accurately detect resistant strains of Strep A. This will ensure clinicians can prescribe the most efficient treatment to kill the bacteria and ideally prevent infections from recurring."
Funded as part of the Federal Government’s $241 million commitment to supporting health and medical research projects nation-wide, it is hoped this project will significantly reduce serious complications caused by Strep A and serve as a model system for further work into related antibiotic resistance mechanisms across a range of medically-important pathogens.
Click here for more information about Strep A and RHD research by the END RHD program at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases.