A throat culture is a test to check for a Reference bacterial Opens New Window or Reference fungal Opens New Window infection in the throat. A sample swabbed from the throat is put in a special cup (culture) that allows infections to grow. If an infection grows, the culture is positive. The type of infection is found using a microscope, chemical tests, or both. If no infection grows, the culture is negative.
Examples of infections that may be found during a throat culture include:
- Candida albicans. This fungus causes Reference thrush Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, an infection of the mouth and tongue and sometimes of the throat.
- Group A streptococcus. This bacteria can cause Reference strep throat Opens New Window, Reference scarlet fever Opens New Window, and Reference rheumatic fever Opens New Window. If strep throat is likely, a test called a rapid strep test (or quick strep) may be done before a throat culture. With a rapid strep test, results are ready in 10 minutes instead of 1 to 2 days with a throat culture. If the rapid strep test results are positive, antibiotics can be started immediately. A throat culture is more accurate than the rapid strep test. The rapid strep test can give Reference false-negative results Opens New Window even when strep bacteria are present. When the results of a rapid strep test are negative, many doctors recommend doing a throat culture to make sure that strep throat is not present.
- Neisseria meningitidis. This bacteria can cause Reference meningitis Opens New Window.
If bacteria grows in the culture, other tests may be done to check which antibiotic will treat the infection best. This is called susceptibility or Reference sensitivity testing.
Most sore throats are caused by an infection with a Reference virus Opens New Window, such as a cold or flu. Throat cultures are not done for viral infections because it is very hard to grow viruses and it is expensive.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference June 12, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology