To diagnose a possible bacterial infection of the throat (usually Streptococcus pyogene)
Test for Throat Infection
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 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.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed. The test should be performed before antibiotics are prescribed.
How is it used?
The majority of sore throats are caused by a virus and do not require active treatment with antibiotics. Some, caused by the streptococcus pyogenes bacterium, may be severe and are treatable with antibiotics. Your doctor may take a throat culture to help make the correct diagnosis if they think you might have a bacterial infection of your throat. This allows your doctor to prescribe the correct antibiotics for treatment. A throat culture may take several days to provide results.
When is it requested?
Your doctor may request this test if you have a sore throat and a fever that might be due to a bacterial infection. Other symptoms include:
- tonsils that may appear red with white or yellow spots at the back of the throat
- a swollen, tender neck
- skin rash
- loss of appetite
What does the test result mean?
Is there anything else I should know?
A sore throat due to a bacterial infection may spread through person-to-person contact. Symptoms usually occur within two to seven days after exposure. If untreated, this throat infection can create serious lifelong problems in a small minority of patients.
This infection is most common in 5- to 10-year-olds. Up to 20% of school children may be "carriers" - people who have the bacteria but who have no symptoms. Carriers can still spread the infection to others.
How long does treatment for bacterial infection of the throat usually last?
Five to 10 days depending on which antibiotic prescribed
How long should I stay away from other people if I have a positive test result?
Twenty-four hours after starting medication
When can my child go back to school?
Usually after one full day of therapy and absence of significant fever
If one child in my family has sore throat, is everyone going to get sick?
What is an ASO test and how is it used to detect a bacterial infection of the throat?
Antistreptolysin O (ASO) titre is a blood test used to help diagnose a current or past infection with Group A strep (Streptococcus pyogenes). It detects antibodies to streptolysin O, one of the many streptococcus antigens. This test is rarely used now compared to thirty years ago. For an acute throat infection, this test is not performed; the throat culture is used. However, if a doctor is trying to find out if someone had a recent infection that may not have been diagnosed, this test could be helpful. In addition, it may be used to help diagnose rheumatic fever, which occurs weeks after a bacterial throat infection when the throat culture would no longer be positive.