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Rheumatic fever & rheumatic heart disease: The last 50 years

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      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.

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      The global burden of group A streptococcal diseases.

      The global burden of disease caused by group A streptococcus (GAS) is not known. We review recent population-based data to estimate the burden of GAS diseases and highlight deficiencies in the available data. We estimate that there are at least 517,000 deaths each year due to severe GAS diseases (eg, acute rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease, post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, and invasive infections). The prevalence of severe GAS disease is at least 18.1 million cases, with 1.78 million new cases each year. The greatest burden is due to rheumatic heart disease, with a prevalence of at least 15.6 million cases, with 282,000 new cases and 233,000 deaths each year. The burden of invasive GAS diseases is unexpectedly high, with at least 663,000 new cases and 163,000 deaths each year. In addition, there are more than 111 million prevalent cases of GAS pyoderma, and over 616 million incident cases per year of GAS pharyngitis. Epidemiological data from developing countries for most diseases is poor. On a global scale, GAS is an important cause of morbidity and mortality. These data emphasise the need to reinforce current control strategies, develop new primary prevention strategies, and collect better data from developing countries.
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        Prevalence of rheumatic heart disease detected by echocardiographic screening.

        Epidemiologic studies of the prevalence of rheumatic heart disease have used clinical screening with echocardiographic confirmation of suspected cases. We hypothesized that echocardiographic screening of all surveyed children would show a significantly higher prevalence of rheumatic heart disease. Randomly selected schoolchildren from 6 through 17 years of age in Cambodia and Mozambique were screened for rheumatic heart disease according to standard clinical and echocardiographic criteria. Clinical examination detected rheumatic heart disease that was confirmed by echocardiography in 8 of 3677 children in Cambodia and 5 of 2170 children in Mozambique; the corresponding prevalence rates and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were 2.2 cases per 1000 (95% CI, 0.7 to 3.7) for Cambodia and 2.3 cases per 1000 (95% CI, 0.3 to 4.3) for Mozambique. In contrast, echocardiographic screening detected 79 cases of rheumatic heart disease in Cambodia and 66 cases in Mozambique, corresponding to prevalence rates of 21.5 cases per 1000 (95% CI, 16.8 to 26.2) and 30.4 cases per 1000 (95% CI, 23.2 to 37.6), respectively. The mitral valve was involved in the great majority of cases (87.3% in Cambodia and 98.4% in Mozambique). Systematic screening with echocardiography, as compared with clinical screening, reveals a much higher prevalence of rheumatic heart disease (approximately 10 times as great). Since rheumatic heart disease frequently has devastating clinical consequences and secondary prevention may be effective after accurate identification of early cases, these results have important public health implications. Copyright 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society.
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          World Heart Federation criteria for echocardiographic diagnosis of rheumatic heart disease--an evidence-based guideline.

          Over the past 5 years, the advent of echocardiographic screening for rheumatic heart disease (RHD) has revealed a higher RHD burden than previously thought. In light of this global experience, the development of new international echocardiographic guidelines that address the full spectrum of the rheumatic disease process is opportune. Systematic differences in the reporting of and diagnostic approach to RHD exist, reflecting differences in local experience and disease patterns. The World Heart Federation echocardiographic criteria for RHD have, therefore, been developed and are formulated on the basis of the best available evidence. Three categories are defined on the basis of assessment by 2D, continuous-wave, and color-Doppler echocardiography: 'definite RHD', 'borderline RHD', and 'normal'. Four subcategories of 'definite RHD' and three subcategories of 'borderline RHD' exist, to reflect the various disease patterns. The morphological features of RHD and the criteria for pathological mitral and aortic regurgitation are also defined. The criteria are modified for those aged over 20 years on the basis of the available evidence. The standardized criteria aim to permit rapid and consistent identification of individuals with RHD without a clear history of acute rheumatic fever and hence allow enrollment into secondary prophylaxis programs. However, important unanswered questions remain about the importance of subclinical disease (borderline or definite RHD on echocardiography without a clinical pathological murmur), and about the practicalities of implementing screening programs. These standardized criteria will help enable new studies to be designed to evaluate the role of echocardiographic screening in RHD control.

            Author and article information

            Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences & Research Centre, Kochi, India
            [* ] Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science & Research, New Delhi, India
            Author notes
            Reprint requests: Dr R. Tandon, Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science & Research, B-16, Qutub Institutional Area, New Delhi 110 016, India e-mail: dr_rajtandon@
            Indian J Med Res
            Indian J. Med. Res
            The Indian Journal of Medical Research
            Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd (India )
            April 2013
            : 137
            : 4
            : 643-658
            Copyright: © The Indian Journal of Medical Research

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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