September 25, 2013

What is the Best Antibiotic for Strep Throat?

The traditional answer for the best antibiotic to treat strep throat is penicillin. This antibiotic works astoundingly well... until it doesn't. Why is that?

Although in the lab, penicillin is probably the most effective antibiotic against Group A beta-hemolytic streptococci (GABHS) or "strep throat" infection, when it comes to human beings, it doesn't always work. A recent paper out of Georgetown elucidates the reasons why that might be the case and also explains why if you took a survey of ENT doctors, clindamycin and augmentin are perhaps the two most popular antibiotics used in our patient population (patients seen in an ENT practice suffering from recurrent and/or severe infections of the head and neck region).

Penicillin may fail to work because:

• presence of beta-lactamase producing bacteria that "protect" strep from penicillins
• absence of bacteria that interfere with the growth of strep
• co-aggregation between strep and Moraxella catarrhalis
• poor penetration of penicillin into the tonsillar tissue cells which allows intra-cellular strep and Staphylococcus aureus to survive

Indeed, in the treatment of recurrent and chronic strep throat, clindamycin or amoxicillin-clavulanic acid (augmentin) can eradicate both aerobic and anaerobic beta-lactamase producing bacteria as well as strep itself. Cephalosporins and clindamycin have superior intracellular penetration which enhances their efficacy as well.

One also needs to keep in mind that there are OTHER germs that can cause infections besides strep like Fusobacterium.  More info here.

Of course, if a patient has suffered from such severe and recurrent strep infections, it just might be time to remove tonsils and adenoids surgically.

Watch a video showing how a tonsillectomy is performed here!

Penicillin failure in the treatment of group A streptococcal pharyngo-tonsillitis: Causes and solutions. Journal of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Volume 8, Number 2 / 2013 Pages 59-69
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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