At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
To diagnose a possible bacterial infection of the throat (usually Streptococcus pyogene)
When to Get Tested?
If you have a sore throat and fever and your doctor thinks it may have a bacterial cause (although most sore throats are caused by viruses and won't require antibiotics)
A swab brushed against your throat and tonsils
The Test Sample
What is being tested?
The test identifies Streptococcus pyogenes, known as Group A streptococcus, which are bacteria that infect the back of the throat and are a common cause for an infected and sore throat. Whilst group A Streptococcus is the commonest bacterial cause of a severe sore throat (pharyngitis), it is not the only bacterial cause and others include group C and G streptococcus and arcanobacteria.
How is the sample collected for testing?
The bacteria are tested for by throat culture. Your doctor may use a tongue depressor to hold down your tongue, and then s/he will insert a special swab into your mouth and brush it against your throat and tonsils. The swab will be sent to a laboratory, where culture is performed.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Ask a Laboratory Scientist
NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.