Management of pharyngitis is commonly based on features which are thought to be associated with Lancefield group A beta-haemolytic streptococci (GABHS) but it is debatable which features best predict GABHS. Non-group A strains share major virulence factors with group A, but it is unclear how commonly they present and whether their presentation differs.
To assess the incidence and clinical variables associated with streptococcal infections.
Design and setting
Prospective diagnostic cohort study in UK primary care.
The presence of pathogenic streptococci from throat swabs was assessed among patients aged ≥5 years presenting with acute sore throat.
Pathogenic streptococci were found in 204/597 patients (34%, 95% CI = 31 to 38%): 33% (68/204) were non-group A streptococci, mostly C (n = 29), G (n = 18) and B (n = 17); rarely D (n = 3) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (n = 1). Patients presented with similar features whether the streptococci were group A or non-group A. The features best predicting A, C or G beta-haemolytic streptococci were patient’s assessment of severity (odds ratio [OR] for a bad sore throat 3.31, 95% CI = 1.24 to 8.83); doctors’ assessment of severity (severely inflamed tonsils OR 2.28, 95% CI = 1.39 to 3.74); absence of a bad cough (OR 2.73, 95% CI = 1.56 to 4.76), absence of a coryza (OR 1.54, 95% CI = 0.99 to 2.41); and moderately bad or worse muscle aches (OR 2.20, 95% CI = 1.41 to 3.42).
Non-group A strains commonly cause streptococcal sore throats, and present with similar symptomatic clinical features to group A streptococci. The best features to predict streptococcal sore throat presenting in primary care deserve revisiting.