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Harvard Health Publications

Throat Culture

What is the test?

A throat infection with streptococcus bacteria (called strep throat) needs to be treated with an antibiotic. A throat culture is the traditional test used for identifying streptococcus bacteria on your throat surface. Throat cultures also can identify some other bacteria that can cause sore throat.

How do I prepare for the test?

No preparation is necessary.

What happens when the test is performed?

A cotton swab is rubbed against the back of your throat to gather a sample of mucus. This takes only a second or two and makes some people feel a brief gagging or choking sensation. The mucus sample is then placed on a culture plate that helps any bacteria present in the mucus grow, so they can be examined and identified.

What risks are there from the test?

There are no risks.

Must I do anything special after the test is over?

No.

How long is it before the result of the test is known?

Results from a strep culture are available in two or three days.


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