Strep Throat On The Rise As Amoxicillin Remains In Short Supply

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, severe cases of strep throat were down by 25%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While it's believed that the decrease was likely a result of the precautionary measures we took to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses between 2020 and 2021, the CDC reports that two years later, cases of strep throat have surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

Strep throat is an infection caused by a class of bacteria called group A Streptococcus, and comes with symptoms like sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and swollen tonsils (per Cleveland Clinic). While adults are susceptible to strep A infections, they affect school-aged children at a disproportionate rate.

The CDC doesn't typically keep tabs on run-of-the-mill communicable illnesses like strep throat. However, as we continue to face a shortage of the drugs usually used to treat the illness, NPR reports that they are currently tracking a more dangerous iteration of the infection, called invasive strep A, which is currently on the rise in the United States.

What is invasive strep A?

Invasive strep A occurs when the bacteria that causes strep throat slips past the body's defenses and spreads from the throat to the bloodstream. This can cause potentially life-threatening complications like toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis — a flesh-eating disease (per Everyday Health). For that reason, the CDC implores people with invasive strep A to seek immediate emergency medical attention.

However, the spike in invasive strep A cases — the majority of which involve children — coincides with a national shortage of pediatric friendly versions of amoxicillin (per News Nation). Amoxicillin has been on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) list of drugs in short supply since October 2022. A recent survey conducted by Jackson Pharmacy Professionals revealed that in the previous six weeks, 73% of the pharmacies surveyed were still experiencing a shortage of the coveted antibiotic. Currently, the hardest kind of amoxicillin to get your hands on is the pink liquid typically prescribed to children for easier administration (per The Washington Post)

While it isn't the only antibiotic that has proven effective against Streptococcus bacteria, News Nation points out that amoxicillin is the only antibiotic that has never shown any resistance to group A strep.