Diagnosis and management of group a streptococcal pharyngitis in the united states, 2011-2015

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Background: Clinical guidelines for the diagnosis of group A streptococcal (GAS) pharyngitis recommend the use of a rapid antigen detection test (RADT) and/or bacterial culture. This study evaluated the overall diagnosis and treatment of acute pharyngitis in the United States, including predictors of test type and antibiotic prescription. Methods: A retrospective analysis of pharyngitis events from 2011 through 2015 was conducted using the MarketScan commercial/Medicare databases. A pharyngitis event was defined as occurring within 2 weeks from the index visit. Patient and provider characteristics were examined across 5 testing categories: RADT, RADT plus culture, other tests, nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT), and no test. Multivariate models were used to identify significant predictors of NAAT use and antibiotic prescription. Results: A total of 18.8 million acute pharyngitis events were identified in 11.6 million patients. Roughly two-thirds of events (68.2%) occurred once, and roughly a third of patients (29.1%) required additional follow-up, but hospitalization was rare (0.3%). Across all events, 43% were diagnosed by RADT, while 20% were diagnosed by RADT plus culture. The proportion of events diagnosed by NAAT increased 3.5-fold from 2011 to 2015 (0.06% vs 0.27%). Antibiotic use was frequent (49.3%), less often in combination with RADT plus culture (31.2%) or NAAT alone (34.5%) but significantly more often with RADT alone (53.4%) or no test (57.1%). Pediatricians were significantly less likely than other providers to prescribe antibiotics in their patients, regardless of patient age (p < 0.0001). Conclusions: Antibiotic use for sore throat remains common, with many clinicians not following current guidelines for diagnosis of GAS pharyngitis. Diagnosis of GAS pharyngitis using RADT plus culture or NAAT alone was associated with lower use of antibiotics. Diagnostic testing can help lower the incidence of inappropriate antibiotic use, and inclusion of NAAT in the clinical guidelines for GAS pharyngitis warrants consideration.




Luo, R., Sickler, J., Vahidnia, F., Lee, Y. C., Frogner, B., & Thompson, M. (2019). Diagnosis and management of group a streptococcal pharyngitis in the united states, 2011-2015. BMC Infectious Diseases, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-019-3835-4

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