A throat culture is a
test to find a
fungal 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
Examples of infections that may be found during a
throat culture include:
- Candida albicans. This
thrush, an infection of the mouth and tongue and
sometimes of the throat. See a picture of
thrush in the mouth .
- Group A streptococcus. This bacteria can cause
scarlet fever, and
rheumatic fever. 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
false-negative results 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
If bacteria grows in the culture, other tests may be
done to check which antibiotic will treat the infection best. This is called
Most sore throats are caused by an infection with a virus, 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.
Why It Is Done
A throat culture may be done
- Find the cause of a sore throat. Most sore
throat infections are caused by a virus. A throat culture shows the difference
between a bacterial infection and a viral infection. Finding the organism that
is causing the infection can guide treatment.
- Check a person who
may not have any symptoms of infection but who carries bacteria that can spread
to others. This person is called a carrier.
How To Prepare
You do not need to do anything before
you have this test. Tell your doctor if you have recently taken