Acute rheumatic fever is caused by a prior streptococcal infection and is often associated with nasopharyngitis, or upper respiratory infections. The group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus infection, which may have been mild and even unnoticed and untreated, usually occurred 2 to 6 weeks before the development of symptoms of acute rheumatic fever. Experts suspect that rheumatic fever is an autoimmune response triggered by antibodies that are produced in response to the streptococcal infection. The antibodies react with the body's cells and produce characteristic lesions in the target organs.

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