Streptococcus pyogenes is the scientific name of a common form of bacteria often found living in the mouth or respiratory system of healthy humans. The prefix strep is given to this particular species of bacteria because of their twisted strip formation; coccus comes from the spherical shape and arrangement in chains of the individual cells. This species resembles a pearl necklace when viewed under sufficient magnification.
Like all bacteria, Streptococcus pyogenes is too small to be seen without the aid of a microscope. When using a compound light microscope, these bacteria also need to be stained in order to show up well. Streptococcus pyogenes, it should be noted, is an opportunistic pathogen, meaning it can and will cause disease when given the opportunity. Such opportunities present when the immune system is low and the number of bacteria cells in the mouth or throat is allowed to multiply without resistance. Laboratory investigations using these tiny creatures should only be conducted after proper training in working with potentially hazardous biological agents.
One of the most common conditions or illnesses caused by streptococcus pyogenes is actually named after the culprit and is called strep throat. Strep throat occurs when the bacteria are able to invade the tissue of the throat and begin to thrive and multiply. The body reacts to this invasion with inflammation and irritation, causing pain and a raspy voice. If strep throat is not treated correctly with antibiotics, it can develop into rheumatic fever, which can be life threatening. Streptococcus pyogenes is also a common inhabitant on the skin, where it can cause the skin infection impetigo.
Before the development of antibiotics, streptococcus pyogenes was responsible for many deaths. When infections caused by this bacteria flare up, the bacteria are easily passed from person to person. School children are particularly at risk, especially during the winter, when grouped together indoors. Frequent hand-washing and keeping fit by eating a healthy diet and getting enough rest and exercise are usually sufficient to keep these bacteria from taking over. Antibiotics are also quite effective in treating infections as long as the infected person is not allergic.