A University of Queensland-led team of international researchers says supercharged “clones” of the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes are to blame for the resurgence of the disease, which has caused high death rates for centuries.
UQ’s Dr Stephan Brouwer said health authorities globally were surprised when an epidemic was detected in Asian countries in 2011.
“The disease had mostly dissipated by the 1940s,” Dr Brouwer said.
“Like the virus that causes COVID-19, Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria are usually spread by people coughing or sneezing, with symptoms including a sore throat, fever, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and a characteristic scarlet-coloured, red rash.
“Scarlet fever commonly affects children, typically aged between two and 10 years.
“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