Mysterious Bacterial Infection with High Mortality Rate Spreads in Japan

Written by Henrik Rothen

Mar.17 - 2024 9:59 AM CET

Photo: Wiki Commons
Photo: Wiki Commons
It has a a mortality rate reaching up to 30 percent.

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Japan is currently grappling with the outbreak of a rare and deadly bacterial infection, leaving experts searching for answers.

The infection, caused by A streptococcus, has been on the rise since last year, with a mortality rate reaching up to 30 percent, particularly endangering the elderly population. Despite A streptococcus typically causing mild conditions like angina and skin infections, it has now been linked to severe cases of toxic shock syndrome across the nation.

The Guardian reports on this alarming health crisis, noting the significant increase in toxic shock syndrome cases. In 2023, Japan recorded 941 instances of the syndrome, with the first two months of 2024 already witnessing 376 cases. The infection has spread to nearly all of Japan's 47 prefectures, with the cause of this sudden surge remaining a mystery.

The Japanese Institute of Infectious Diseases has acknowledged the complexity behind the severe manifestations of the infection, stating, "There are still many unknown factors behind the mechanisms of the severe and sudden forms of streptococci, and we are not at the point where we can explain them."

Transmission of the streptococcal infections occurs mainly through droplet infection or contact with wounds. Some experts suggest a link between the increase in cases and the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Ken Kikuchi of Tokyo Women's Medical University speculates that the immunological state of individuals recovering from COVID-19 may alter their susceptibility to certain microbes, emphasizing the urgent need to understand the infection cycle of serious invasive A streptococci to control its spread effectively.

In response to the outbreak, the Japanese Ministry of Health urges the public to adhere to hygiene practices familiar from the coronavirus pandemic, such as handwashing and cough etiquette.

Health Minister Keizo Takemi has highlighted the importance of these preventive measures in combating the spread of bacterial infections caused by A streptococcus.

As Japan faces this health challenge, the global medical community watches closely, hoping for breakthroughs in understanding and controlling this deadly bacterial outbreak.

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