Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The same bacteria that causes strep throat can also turn into a dangerous, flesh-eating disease, a new study shows.
Group A streptococcus bacteria affects more than 700 million people globally and can lead to several diseases, some mild and some deadly.
Childbed fever is the most dangerous form of the disease, causing its victims to lose limbs or die, according to a new study published Tuesday in Nature Genetics.
"Puerperal sepsis, more commonly called childbed fever, causes a lot of deaths on a global basis in women who are in the process of giving birth or soon after birth," said James M. Musser, a researcher at Houston Methodist and study the corresponding author, in a news release. "It is estimated that about 10 percent of all women who get childbed fever will end up dying. It's devastating and can sometimes also cause the child to die."
To study the disease's effect, the researchers zeroed in on the M28 strain of group A streptococcus, the cause of many invasive cases of childbed fever.
"By understanding the relationship and interplay between the genome, transcriptome and virulence, we have a much greater chance of being able to successfully create new vaccines and therapies for infected patients, as well as find other ways to prevent or at least minimize how much damage they cause to humans," Musser said.
First, they examined the connection between the genome, transcriptome and virulence, which rendered a large number of data, making it easier to analyze the information with artificial intelligence.
Ultimately, the researchers want their catalog of data to be used by other scientists in genomic databases.
"We were able to clearly show new routes about how the M28 strain of group A strep causes infection, and it gives us a roadmap for understanding how this organism causes maternal sepsis," Musser said. "This extensive knowledge we now have gives us insight into how one might begin to attack important downstream research like developing a vaccine or new treatment to fight this organism and potentially eradicate it in the future."