throat swabs in sore throat

Last reviewed 01/2018

About 40% of throat swabs taken for a sore throat yield no growth. About 30% are streptococcal, 20% viral and 10% other organisms including Haemophilus.


  • Ross PW (1971). Beta-haemolytic streptococci in the throat: carrier rates in schoolchildren. Health Bull, 29, 108-12
    • a study of 411 healthy Scottish children aged 5-8 and 13-15 years: the mean carriage rate over 2.5 years was 10.4% with a peak of 21% in some winter months. Carriage was commonest in children around 7 years old
  • Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (1995), 33(2), 9
    • a light growth might be due to a commensal strep. pyogenes with a viral sore throat, but equally it could be due to a poorly taken swab with a clinically significant bacterial cause.