Rapid antigen detection testing in diagnosing group A β-hemolytic streptococcal pharyngitis

Alexander K.C. Leung, Rachel Newman, Ashir Kumar, H. Dele Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Group A β-hemolytic streptococcus (GABHS) is the most common bacterial cause of acute pharyngitis. Clinical criteria alone are not reliable enough to diagnose GABHS pharyngitis. Microbiological-testing is required for correct diagnosis. Although a throat swab culture remains the gold standard for documenting the presence of GABHS, a significant disadvantage of the culture is the delayed time of 1-2 days to obtain results. Most rapid antigen detection tests can provide results in less than 15 min. Rapid identification and treatment of patients with GABHS pharyngitis can reduce the risk of the spread of disease, may shorten the duration of symptoms, decrease the incidence of suppurative complications, decrease the amount of time lost from school/work, decrease the inappropriate use of antibiotics, reduce patient/parent dissatisfaction and alleviate the need for costly follow-up visits. All rapid antigen detection tests involve extraction of the group-specific carbohydrate antigen from the GABHS cell wall and identification of the antigen by an immunological reaction. There are numerous rapid antigen detection testing methods, namely latex agglutination, enzyme immunoassay, optical immunoassay, chemiluminescent DNA probes and PCR methods. Most of the rapid antigen detection tests that are currently in use have an excellent specificity of greater than 95% and a sensitivity of greater than or equal to 90%. Owing to the high specificity of the rapid antigen detection tests, a positive rapid antigen detection test is accepted as adequate for the diagnosis of GABHS pharyngitis. Conversely, confirmation of a negative antigen detection test with a throat culture result is necessary, unless the physician has ascertained in his/her practice that the sensitivity of the rapid antigen test used is comparable with that of a throat culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-766
Number of pages6
JournalExpert Review of Molecular Diagnostics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Antigen detection
  • Culture
  • Group A streptococcus
  • Molecular diagnosis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Rapid
  • Rapid diagnosis
  • Sensitivity
  • Specificity
  • Streptococcus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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