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Pediatrics. 2003 Jun;111(6 Pt 1):e666-70.

Evaluating the American Academy of Pediatrics diagnostic standard for Streptococcus pyogenes pharyngitis: backup culture versus repeat rapid antigen testing.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado, USA.



The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all negative rapid diagnostic tests for Streptococcus pyogenes pharyngitis be backed up by culture, which creates a dilemma for clinicians who must make treatment decisions without complete diagnostic information at the time of visit. The use of a follow-up serial rapid antigen test instead of a follow-up culture would provide a more timely result.


Two swabs were collected from children who were suspected of having S pyogenes pharyngitis. Each swab was used for a culture and an OSOM Ultra Strep A Test rapid antigen test. The gold standard of comparison was defined as the identification of S pyogenes on either of the 2 culture plates. Three diagnostic strategies were evaluated: a single rapid antigen test, a rapid antigen test with follow-up rapid antigen test (rapid-rapid), and a rapid antigen test with follow-up culture (rapid-culture).


A total of 210 (23.7%) of 887 throat cultures with matched data were identified with S pyogenes. A single rapid antigen test had a sensitivity of 87.6% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 83.2%-92.1%), the sensitivity of the rapid-rapid follow-up was 91.4% (95% CI: 87.6%-95.2%), and the sensitivity of the rapid-culture follow-up was 95.7% (95% CI: 93.0%-98.5%), which was significantly higher than the others. As shown in Fig 1, when these test strategies were evaluated on a subgroup with clinical symptoms commonly associated with S pyogenes pharyngitis, the sensitivities all increased and were no longer significantly different. None of the strategies reliably exceeded a 95% sensitivity threshold.


The American Academy of Pediatrics strategy for S pyogenes detection in children with pharyngitis, requiring a backup culture for those with negative antigen tests, was not exceeded by any other test strategy; however, a rapid-rapid diagnostic strategy may approximate it with the use of judicious clinical selection of patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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