Since 2014, England has seen increased scarlet fever activity unprecedented in modern times. In 2016, England’s scarlet fever seasonal rise coincided with an unexpected elevation in invasive Streptococcus pyogenes infections. We describe the molecular epidemiological investigation of these events.
We analysed changes in S pyogenes emm genotypes, and notifications of scarlet fever and invasive disease in 2014–16 using regional (northwest London) and national (England and Wales) data. Genomes of 135 non-invasive and 552 invasive emm1 isolates from 2009–16 were analysed and compared with 2800 global emm1 sequences. Transcript and protein expression of streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin A (SpeA; also known as scarlet fever or erythrogenic toxin A) in sequenced, non-invasive emm1 isolates was quantified by real-time PCR and western blot analyses.