For a rapid strep test, the throat and tonsils are swabbed to collect bacteria from the infected area for testing. The bacteria are analyzed to see whether strep (streptococcal) bacteria are causing the sore throat.
.This scanning electron micrograph shows disease-causing Streptococcus bacteria, commonly found in the human mouth, throat, respiratory tract, bloodstream, and wounds. Often airborne in hospitals, schools, and other public places, Streptococcus bacteria are responsible for infections such as strep throat, scarlet fever, and some types of pneumonia.
A throat infection with streptococcus bacteria (called strep throat) needs to be treated with an antibiotic. A test is commonly used to find out whether streptococcus bacteria are present on your throat surface. The traditional test for a strep throat has been a throat culture, which takes two to three days to produce results. Several different types of rapid strep tests, however, can produce results within minutes to hours. A rapid strep test can only detect the presence of Group A strep, the one most likely to cause serious throat infections; it does not detect other kinds of strep or other bacteria.
A good sample of throat secretions is needed to make sure the test is accurate. A person must remain very still during the procedure so that the doctor is able to collect enough secretions for an accurate test.
The Rapid Strep Test works by detecting the presence of a carbohydrate antigen unique to Group A Streptococcus. This may account for some of the problems with the Rapid Strep Test sensitivity. Gargling, eating or other infusion of liquids into the mouth prior to the test may affect the results. If the test is performed before sufficient organisms are present in the throat, or late in the infection when most of the strep germs have been cleared by the immune system, or if it is performed after someone has been partially treated with antibiotics that kill the organism, then the Rapid Strep Test is less likely to detect the organism.
If the Rapid Strep Test detects strep, the infection should be treated with appropriate antibiotics to prevent long-term damage and sequelae. Should the Rapid Strep Test fail to detect strep throat, the clinician might still treat the throat infection based on his or her own judgment.
How do you prepare for the test?
No preparation is necessary.
When it is required to do?
A rapid strep test may be done in the following cases:
*A person has symptoms of strep throat infection.
*A person has been exposed to strep during an epidemic of rheumatic fever.
The person has a personal or family history of rheumatic fever or other serious infections (such as toxic shock syndrome) and has been exposed to strep. In these cases, if there are no symptoms, a culture may be done first because it is more accurate than a rapid strep test.
In general, it is not necessary to test people who have been exposed to strep throat but do not have any symptoms.
What happens when the test is performed?
A cotton swab is rubbed against the back of your throat to gather a sample of mucus. This takes only a second or two and makes some people feel a brief gagging or choking sensation. The mucus sample is then tested for a protein that comes from the strep bacteria.
There are no risks.
Anything to be done after the test?
How long is it before the result of the test is known?
Results may be available in minutes to a few hours. Often the doctor will ask you to wait in the office until the result is back.
Findings of a rapid strep test may include the following:
A normal or negative test means that strep bacteria may not be present.
Sometimes, negative results are wrong. This means that you may have a negative rapid strep test result and still have strep throat.
A throat culture may be done if the rapid strep test result is negative.
An abnormal or positive strep test means that strep bacteria are present.
Antibiotic treatment can be started.
A positive test result does not distinguish those people with an active strep infection from those who are carriers of strep bacteria but actually have a viral infection (rather than a bacterial one).
What To Think About:
The rapid strep test costs less than a throat culture and may diagnose strep throat quickly
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