Preventing Rheumatic Fever: A New Guideline from the AHA

The American Heart Association (AHA) has released a new guideline, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which focuses on the prevention of rheumatic fever (RF) and on diagnosis and treatment of acute group A streptococcal (GAS) pharyngitis. Also included in the scientific statement are prophylaxis recommendations for recurrent RF and bacterial endocarditis and discussion of poststreptococcal reactive arthritis and pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. Although much of the information is not new, the report confirms many recommendations in the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases’ Red Book. Highlights of the report include the following:
— One third of acute RF episodes result from streptococcal infections that are not evident.
— GAS pharyngitis primarily affects children between ages 5 and 15 years. Infants with GAS infections might present with excoriated nares or purulent nasal discharge. Acute RF is rare in children younger than 3 years.
— Microbiological confirmation is necessary to differentiate GAS pharyngitis from pharyngitis caused by other pathogens. Neither rapid antigen tests nor traditional throat culture can differentiate between people who have GAS infection and those who are carriers.
— Antigen tests are very specific, but sensitivity is unacceptably low. If a patient has a negative rapid test but the clinician has a high index of suspicion for GAS pharyngitis, a culture should be performed.
— Treatment is indicated for patients with acute pharyngitis and either a positive antigen test or a positive culture. In general, follow-up cultures are not recommended.
— Recommended treatments for primary prevention of RF are the following:
Penicillin V (250 mg for children 27 kg or 500 mg for children >27 kg 2 to 3 times/day for 10 days)
Amoxicillin (50 mg/kg once daily [maximum, 1 g] for 10 days)
Benzathine penicillin G (1 dose of 600,000 U for children 27 kg or 1,200,000 U for patients >27 kg)
— Recommended treatments for patients allergic to penicillin are the following:
Clindamycin (20 mg/kg/day divided in 3 doses [maximum, 1.8 g/day] for 10 days)
Azithromycin (12 mg/kg/day [maximum dose, 500 mg/day] for 5 days)
Clarithromycin (15 mg/kg/day divided in 2 doses [maximum, 250 mg twice per day] for 10 days)
— Repeated courses of antibiotics are rarely indicated in asymptomatic children who continue to be culture positive for GAS.
Published in Journal Watch Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine April 1, 2009