What is a throat culture, and how is it used to diagnose an illness?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Throat cultures involve the use of long cotton swabs to swipe the back of the throat so that the presence of bacteria can be detected and identified.  Most sore throats are viral in nature, and are consequently not treatable with antibiotics.  Sore throats that are caused by bacterial infections, however, can be extremely serious and require a regimen of antibiotics and, depending upon the diagnosis, possible surgery.  The throat culture, in effect, the bacteria removed from the patient’s throat with the swab, is placed in a sterile container and left to see whether the bacteria grows, indicating infection.  A microscope is used to identify the precise nature of the infection, as bacteria are obviously extremely miniscule and invisible to the naked eye.

Among the infections commonly diagnosed and for which prompt treatment is required are streptococcus, or strep throat, which can cause scarlet and rheumatic fevers, and Neisseria meningitides, or meningitis.  Left untreated, both of these types of infections can prove fatal. 

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udonbutterfly | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The throat culture, also known as the strep test for some, is a medical test that is used to check the throat for bacterial infections by using a cotton swab to swipe salvia from the back of the throat to be tested . The throat culture is used to diagnose infections like strep-throat, tonsillitis, and pneumonia.

CaitlynnReeves's profile pic

CaitlynnReeves | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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A throat culture involves swabbing the back of a patient's throat with a cotton swab and analyzing the tissue sample for a bacterial or fungal pressence. It is most commonly used to test for strep throat, but it can also be used to indicate mono and tonsillitis. 


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