Abstract by Lindsey Meservey
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Finding a Link Between Impetigo and Rheumatic Heart Disease
Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) causes over 300,000 deaths annually, most of them in third world countries. Decades of research confirm that untreated strep throat infections (caused by group A strep, or GAS) can trigger an autoimmune response that leads to RHD. However, despite increased worldwide attention toward treating strep throat, RHD rates can continued to increase, especially in tropical countries like Samoa. We hypothesize that GAS infections of the skin, commonly called impetigo, are also responsible for causing RHD in Samoa. We are teaming with the Samoa Rheumatic Relief Internship program to test this hypothesis. We will screen children for RHD and take throat, leg sore, and mat swabs. We will then analyze these samples to see if and which strains of GAS are present. We predict that the correlation between the presence of GAS in leg wounds and RHD will be as high as that as between GAS in the throat and RHD. We also expect to see that strains of GAS in leg wounds will be similar to those found on mats. We also expect to find that certain strains of GAS are more strongly correlated with RHD, consistent with previous research.