As the entire world is busy containing the coronavirus pandemic, scientists have suggested that the deadly Scarlet fever is resurging after it underwent a mutation. Scarlet fever has killed thousands of people in the 19th century, and history suggests that children aged between 5 and 15, are usually the carriers and victims of this illness. By the 20th century, medical experts developed highly effective anti-biotics against this disease, and thus, this bacterial infection was successfully contained.
Scarlet Fever makes a comeback
However, fresh reports suggest that the disease is resurging as the bacteria is mutated. The study carried out by researchers at the University of Queensland has found that the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, which causes scarlet fever is gradually becoming stronger after it was infected by another virus.
The study team has been studying Scarlet fever since 2011 when small outbreaks were reported in Asia. Researchers revealed that there was a 68 percent rise in cases of scarlet fever in the United Kingdom from 2014 to 2018.
"After 2011, the global reach of the pandemic became evident with reports of a second outbreak in the UK, beginning in 2014, and we've now discovered outbreak isolates here in Australia. This global re-emergence of scarlet fever has caused a more than five-fold increase in disease rate and more than 600,000 cases around the world," said Stephen Brouwer, a molecular biologist at the University of Queensland.
Deadly mutation causes worries
During the study, researchers found that Scarlet fever has started infecting people in a different way after undergoing the mutation. According to scientists, it is a process called horizontal gene transfer which has happened in the case of mutated Scarlet fever bacteria, and it makes it much more difficult to use conventional anti-biotic treatment against the illness.
"The toxins would have been transferred into the bacterium when it was infected by viruses that carried the toxin genes. We've shown that these acquired toxins allow Streptococcus pyogenes to better colonize its host, which likely allows it to out-compete other strains," said Mark Walker, a scientist at the University of Queensland.
Walker also revealed that the social distancing measures followed to contain coronavirus are directly playing an effective role in hindering the spread of Scarlet fever infection too. The scientist claimed that Scarlet bacteria cases will drastically rise once lockdown measures and social distancing rules are relaxed.