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Epidemiology and clinical characteristics of invasive Group A streptococcal infections (IGASI) are highly variable. Long-term studies are needed to understand the interplay between epidemiology and virulence. In a population-based study of IGASI in Iceland from 1975 to 2012, 288 cases were identified by positive cultures from normally sterile body sites. Charts were reviewed retrospectively and emm-types of viable Streptococcus pyogenes isolates (n=226) determined. Comparing the first and last decade of the study period, IGASI incidence increased from 1.09 to 3.96 cases per 100,000 inhabitants per year. The most common were emm types 1 (25%), 28 (11%) and 89 (11%); emm1 strains were most likely to cause severe infections. Infections in adults were significantly more likely to be severe during the seasonal peak from January to April (risk ratio: 2.36, 95% confidence interval: 1.34–4.15). Significant seasonal variability in severity was noted among patients with diagnosis of sepsis, respiratory infection and cellulitis, with 38% of severe infections in January to April compared with 16% in other months (p<0.01). A seasonal increase in severity of IGASI suggested that generalised seasonal increase in host susceptibility, rather than introduction of more virulent strains may play a role in the pathogenesis of these potentially fatal infections.


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