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Doctors performing surgery on a patient., Wikimedia

New Delhi, Feb 24, 2017: Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) — permanent damage to heart valves — can be controlled or prevented by treating Streptococcal throat infection through antibiotics, said doctors on Friday.

They said the need to treat the disease at an early stage is important because rheumatic fever — the main cause of RHD — usually affects the lower socio-economic strata who have less awareness and access to medical facilities.


“Rheumatic fever can be controlled and prevented by treating streptococcal throat infection with antibiotics, mainly penicillin group or newer bactericidal agents. Mostly young children between age group of 10-15 are affected by it. Rheumatic fever is caused by Group A streptococcal infection,” said K.V. Vaid, senior cardiac surgeon at Saroj Super Specialty Hospital.

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Strep throat is bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes, also known as group A streptococcus, causing inflammation in the throat. Streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious. They can spread through airborne droplets when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, or through shared food or drinks.

Vaid said the need to treat RHD at an early stage is because of its ability to cause fibrosis of heart valves, leading to heart disease, leading to heart failure over years and eventually death.

World Heart Federation says curing the rheumatic fever can be arrived at by up to 10 days of an oral antibiotic (usually penicillin) or a single intramuscular penicillin injection.

Experts also said that people having a history of previous attack of rheumatic fever are at high risk of recurrent attack.

Rajendra Rai, associated with cardiac department of Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, said: “Prevention of recurrent attacks of acute rheumatic fever is known as secondary prevention. This involves regular administration of antibiotics, and has to be continued for many years.”

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“Secondary prevention programmes are currently thought to be more cost effective for prevention of RHD than primary prevention and may be the only feasible option for low-to middle-income countries in addition to poverty alleviation efforts,” said Rai.

He said that surgery is often required to repair or replace heart valves in patients with severely damaged valves, the cost of which is very high and a drain on the limited health resources of poor countries. (IANS)


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