Study Finds Rapid Antigen Tests Effective for Accurate Diagnosis of Strep Throat in Primary Care Settings

2023-04-07 11:34:23 By : Mr. Guanglin Wang
Testing, GAS pharyngitis, sore throat, primary care

Getting a sore throat can be a common occurrence, especially in the colder months, and it can signify various things, such as a cold, flu, or most commonly, pharyngitis. Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the pharynx, which typically results in a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and redness in the mouth's back. One of the bacteria known to cause pharyngitis is group A streptococcal (GAS), which can lead to more severe diseases such as rheumatic fever or kidney disease in rare cases. Therefore, it is essential to accurately diagnose strep throat to administer the right treatment and reduce the chances of such complications.
Review: Rapid antigen tests accurate for strep diagnosis

Traditional strep throat diagnosis mandates throat culture, which takes a few days to yield the results. However, recent studies demonstrate that rapid antigen diagnostic tests (RADTs) are an effective substitute for throat cultures for the quick and accurate diagnosis of GAS-associated pharyngitis. These RADTs are designed to detect the presence of antigens from the GAS bacteria and are relatively inexpensive and faster than culture tests.

RADTs work by obtaining a throat swab sample from the back of the throat, with a cotton swab, and inserting it into a test kit that will either display a positive or negative reaction. A positive reaction shows that GAS antigens are present, indicating the need for further testing and prescribed medication. On the other hand, a negative result could suggest a viral infection, which would not require antibiotics. Due to its simplicity and practicality, primary care settings are increasingly utilizing this RADT for sore throat diagnoses, saving patients and physicians time and money while reducing unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.

A study published online assessed the usability of RADTs in general practice and determined that RADTs delivered a sensitivity of 86.6% and specificity of 95.6%. A sensitivity of 86.6% implies that the RADTs accurately identified 86.6% of infected cases, whereas a specificity of 95.6% implies that the test accurately identified 95.6% of uninfected cases. Given that RADTs are approximately 94% accurate overall in diagnosing GAS pharyngitis, RADTs prove to be a reliable and worthy alternative for throat cultures.

In conclusion, RADTs provide an accessible and valuable alternative to traditional throat cultures for diagnosing GAS pharyngitis in primary care settings. It is a cost-effective and quick method that provides the necessary information for physicians to give a diagnosis and medication recommendations. It is important to note that RADTs cannot detect all GAS infections, but they can identify those that need prompt treatment. If patients present symptoms of a sore throat, they should seek medical advice to ensure speedy and efficient diagnosis and treatment, reducing the possibility of GAS-associated complications.