May 08, 2015

What is the Most Common Cause of Bacterial Sore Throat? (Hint... It is NOT Strep)

Viruses may cause the most sore throats, but when it comes to bacterial sources, strep seems to get a bad rap as THE germ that causes tonsillitis and pharyngitis. However, a 2015 study from University of Alabama suggests that group A strep which is detected by the commonly used rapid strep swab only accounts for about 10% of bacterial sore throats.

The real culprit that causes most of the bad non-viral sore throats at least in young adults (15-30 years) is Fusobacterium necrophorum. This germ accounts for about 20% of all sore throats and is treated slightly differently from strep. Typically, the antibiotic of choice is augmentin or clindamycin, especially given the risk of Lemierre's syndrome. But the most important take-home point is that if a patient appears to have an acute tonsillitis/pharyngitis, antibiotics should be prescribed even if strep test negative.

Other germs that were found to cause a sore throat were Group C/G strep in 9% and Mycoplasma pneumoniae in 1.9%.

These findings just goes to show that there may still be a bacterial throat infection even if strep testing comes back normal.

Unfortunately, there is no quick or easy test to detect these other organisms at this time. The researchers had to develop a new PCR test for the purposes of this study.

Regardless of the culprit germ, tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy can be considered if enough infections occur.

Watch a video showing how a tonsillectomy is performed here!

The Clinical Presentation of Fusobacterium-Positive and Streptococcal-Positive Pharyngitis in a University Health Clinic: A Cross-sectional Study. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(4):241-247. doi:10.7326/M14-1305
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.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

Very interesting article! It's important to know how to effectively treat sore throats when they happen. Thanks so much for sharing!

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