Scientific Research Targets Possible Strep Vaccine
Success Could Prevent Rheumatic Heart Disease


Although rheumatic heart disease or RHD is completely preventable, it affects 33 million people globally, two-thirds of them children in the world’s most underserved countries.


For years researchers worldwide have been searching for a vaccine against Group A Streptococcus or strep, a sore throat which left untreated can lead to rheumatic fever, heart disease and premature death. A group of international scientists may be closing in on the hope of a vaccine. The Strep A has a thick cell wall that protects it from outside attack, but researchers have identified a gene vulnerable to modification. More work needs to occur before a vaccine can be developed.


WiRED will continue to monitor the research on the development of an RHD vaccine and to offer our RHD training program (see sidebar) free of charge to all.



WiRED’s RHD Program

WiRED’s medical and health education efforts regarding RHD go back to 2012, and today we offer a comprehensive RHD training program. We developed a multilingual series of modules on RHD targeting general audiences: teachers, students, parents and community health workers, as well as a training on the echocardiographic diagnosis of RHD for healthcare professionals. Also, WiRED created an RHD animation video, which in the space of a few minutes describes RHD and explains why it is so serious, why it prevails in underserved communities, and why we need to address it.



What is RHD?

RHD is a chronic heart condition caused by rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is caused by a bacterial infection known as Streptococcus A or strep. Treating strep throat with antibiotics can prevent rheumatic fever. Moreover, regular antibiotics (usually monthly injections) can prevent patients with rheumatic fever from contracting further strep infections and causing progression to valve damage. The consequences of acute rheumatic fever affect the heart, joints and central nervous system, and can lead to heart failure and death.



You can download the modules mentioned in this story, and all 400+ of WiRED’s health modules, through WiRED’s Health Module Access Program (HealthMAP) by clicking here. This easy-to-use free program will enable you to create your own customized collection of health learning modules. You can learn more about HealthMAP through WiRED's animation.