Acute rheumatic fever and streptococci: the quintessential pathogenic trigger of autoimmunity
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Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is a non-suppurative complication of pharyngeal infection with group A streptococcus. Signs and symptoms of ARF develop 2 to 3 weeks following pharyngitis and include arthritis, carditis, chorea, subcutaneous nodules, and erythema marginatum. In developing areas of the world, ARF and rheumatic heart disease are estimated to affect nearly 20 million people and remain leading causes of cardiovascular death during the first five decades of life. ARF still represents one of the quintessential examples of a pathogenic trigger culminating in autoimmune manifestations. In this review, we will focus on the pathogenesis and etiology of ARF and its complications, along with diagnostic and treatment approaches to both ameliorate and prevent long-term sequelae of this potentially debilitating disease.