Dr Simon Clarke, microbiologist at the University of Reading, said: “Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a common inhabitant of our throats and usually doesn’t cause any problems or require treatment. It’s a common cause of mild diseases like pharyngitis, a sore throat, particularly in children and young adults but can sometimes cause serious diseases, some of which can be life-changing or life-threatening. It is perhaps most notorious for causing necrotising fasciitis, better known as “flesh eating disease”, but that only accounts for a tiny fraction of cases.
“It’s also important to recognise that most sore throats are not caused by GAS and even when they are, will usually go away within a few days. It’s only when a throat infection develops to more serious illness that someone needs to see their doctor.
“Science and medicine don’t have an answer to the question of how or why this bacteria switches from being harmless to causing disease. While it’s natural to be worried about diseases affecting children, it’s important to remember that GAS outbreaks do occur periodically and tend to be small. Antibiotic resistance is rare, so infections are usually treatable if diagnosed early enough.”