Rheumatic fever (RF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) continue to be a major health hazard in most developing countries as well as sporadically in developed economies. Despite reservations about the utility, echocardiographic and Doppler (E&D) studies have identified a massive burden of RHD suggesting the inadequacy of the Jones’ criteria updated by the American Heart Association in 1992. Subclinical carditis has been recognized by E&D in patients with acute RF without clinical carditis as well as by follow up of RHD patients presenting as isolated chorea or those without clinical evidence of carditis. Over the years, the medical management of RF has not changed. Paediatric and juvenile mitral stenosis (MS), upto the age of 12 and 20 yr respectively, severe enough to require operative treatement was documented. These negate the belief that patients of RHD become symptomatic ≥20 years after RF as well as the fact that congestive cardiac failure in childhood indicates active carditis and RF. Non-surgical balloon mitral valvotomy for MS has been initiated. Mitral and/or aortic valve replacement during active RF in patients not responding to medical treatment has been found to be life saving as well as confirming that congestive heart failure in acute RF is due to an acute haemodynamic overload. Pathogenesis as well as susceptibility to RF continue to be elusive. Prevention of RF morbidity depends on secondary prophylaxis which cannot reduce the burden of diseases. Primary prophylaxis is not feasible in the absence of a suitable vaccine. Attempts to design an antistreptococcal vaccine utilizing the M-protein has not succeeded in the last 40 years. Besides pathogenesis many other questions remain unanswered.
|Keywords:||subclinical carditis, streptococcal infections, rheumatic heart disease, rheumatic fever, myocarditis, heart disease, antistreptococcal vaccine|