Abstract: Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is almost entirely preventable, but the incidence in indigenous Australians remains one of the highest in the world. A community-based echocardiogram screening program of 862 Torres Strait Islander children identified 25 (2.9%) new cases of RHD. Among these 25 children, 5/7 (71%) prior acute rheumatic fever presentations had not been recognized. There was a history of microbiologically confirmed group A Streptococcus infection in 17/25 (68%) children with RHD compared with 9/25 (36%) controls (odds ratio [OR] [95% CI]: 3.78 [1.17–12.19], P = 0.03). This was more likely to be a skin swab (16/25 [64%] cases versus 6/25 [24%] controls) than a throat swab (1/25 [4%] cases versus 3/25 [12%] controls) (OR [95% CI]: 5.33 [1.51–18.90] [P = 0.01]), supporting a role for skin infection in RHD pathogenesis. Household crowding and unemployment were common in the cohort, emphasizing the need for prioritizing strategies that address the social determinants of health. This study explores the burden of rheumatic heart disease diagnosed during an echocardiogram screening program in the Torres Strait Islands in tropical Australia and highlights the importance of primordial and primary prevention.
Hempenstall, Allison, Howell, Erin, Kang, Katherine, Chau, Ken W. T., Browne, Amy-Lou, Kris, Ella, Wapau, Hylda, Pilot, Pelista, Smith, Simon, Reeves, Benjamin, Hanson, Josh, 2021, Echocardiographic Screening Detects Rheumatic Heart Disease and Missed Opportunities in the Treatment of Group A Streptococcal Infections in Australian Torres Strait Islander Children, Journal Article, viewed 02 December 2023, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=23093.