Rheumatic Fever Facts
Rheumatic Fever Overview
Rheumatic fever is a complication of strep throat caused by infections with group A streptococcal bacteria. After strep throat, some individuals can develop a second illness one to five weeks later with fever, joint pains, rash, and sometimes brain and heart problems.
Rheumatic Fever Causes
While it is not completely clear, rheumatic fever seems to be caused by a process called "molecular mimicry." During infections with bacteria, the immune system fights the infection by producing antibodies to proteins on the surface of the bacteria. During infection with certain types (or strains) of group A streptococcal bacteria, the proteins on the bacteria appear similar to proteins in the human body. Because of this similarity, the immune system begins to attack human cells with similar proteins, such as heart muscle, joints, skin, and sometimes brain tissue.
Last Reviewed 11/20/2017
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