Recovering Streptococci from the Throat, a Practical Alternative to Direct Plating in Remote Tropical Communities

Malcolm McDonald, R TOWERS, Peter Fagan, M McKinnon, N Benger, Ross Andrews, Bart Currie, Jonathan Carapetis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Throat swabs are regarded as the "gold standard" for diagnosing streptococcal pharyngitis and for surveillance research. Cultaring throats in remote tropical settings is logistically difficult, and these settings are commonly burdened by high rates of streptococcal disease. The survival of streptococci on swabs may depend on whether they are of "throat" or "skin" type, as determined by emm pattern typing. The aims of this study were to compare the recovery rates of beta-hemolytic streptococci (BHS) using three different transport methods and to determine whether the recovery rates correlated with the emm pattern type. Monthly deplicate throat swabs were taken from occupants of selected hoBseholds in three remote Aboriginal communities. Paired swabs were separated and handled in one of three ways: (i) direct inoculation onto culture media with cold-box transport (plated), (ii) sealed in a bag with a silica gel desiccant and cold-box transport (desiccant), and (iii) transport at ambient temperature and humidity (ambient), emm pattern typing was done by standard methods. Over 23 months, 4,842 throat swabs were taken, and 4,122 were paired. BIIS were recovered on 11.5% of the 4,842 occasions (group A, 4.5%; group C, 1.7%; group G, 5.4%). Results from paired swabs showed the plated method was superior to desiccant and desiccant was better than ambient. Pooled data indicated that plated and desiccant were equivalent, and both were significantly better than ambient. There was no correlation between the emm pattern type and recovery of group A streptococci by different methods. In tropical and remote settings, cold-box transport with desiccant and subsequent inoculation of culture plates in the laboratory is a practical alternative to direct plating. Copyright � 2006, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)547-552
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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