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Throat Culture Test
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What Is Throat Culture Test?

A throat culture test is commonly performed to diagnose various bacterial infections in the throat. These infections could be strep throat, pneumonia, tonsillitis, whooping cough, and meningitis. The sole objective of a throat swab culture is to detect the presence of bacteria that are responsible for the infection. If you have strep throat, then this may indicate the presence of Streptococcus pyogenes.

If you are suffering from a sore throat, then your doctor may suspect that either you have strep throat or other bacterial infections. By using the results of your throat culture test, your doctor can adopt the right treatment plan for you.


The cost of the Throat culture test is Rs.800 to Rs.1000, depending on your location and place.

Please check the price of the throat culture test in Delhi/NCR, your nearby centers and other details.

Test Summary

Also known as Strep test, throat swab culture
Test Type Swab
Throat culture test includes To check bacterial infections in the throat
Preparation You need to open your mouth wide
Reporting Within 2-5 days
Test price The cost of the Throat culture test is Rs.800 to Rs.1000, depending on your location and place.
Also included in Health Insurance Plans
Related tests Antihyaluronidase Titer, Antistreptolysin O titer, Bacterial serology, Gram stain, Sputum fungus culture


The Purpose of the Test

Generally, sore throats go away within a few days without any proper treatment. Sometimes, over-the-counter medications are used to relieve any pain or discomfort. Your doctor may refer to a throat culture test if you have symptoms of strep throat or other infections. These symptoms could be,

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • White pus on the tonsils
  • Red spots on the roof of the mouth


All these signs may indicate that you have either a viral or bacterial infection. Thus, a swab test is necessary for proper diagnosis.

Who do you need for this test?

Your doctor may order this test if you have some infections that could be diagnosed with this throat swab culture test. These infections could be,

  • Strep throat
  • Scarlet and rheumatic fever
  • Gonorrhea (gonococcal pharyngitis)
  • Thrush
  • Diphtheria
  • Pertussis


The Preparation of the Test

You may not need any special preparation for this test. Try to avoid antibiotics and mouthwash before the test. As they may hamper your throat culture results.

The Test Procedure

  • Once you reach your nearby lab or diagnostic center, your healthcare provider may ask you to open your mouth and tilt your head back.
  • If required, your doctor may use a tongue depressor to get a better view of the back of your throat.
  • He will rub a sterile cotton swab across the back of your throat, tonsils, and any other sore areas for a few seconds.
  • The swab will contain a sample of the secretions that are produced in the back of your throat
  • The sample will be sent to the laboratory.


The lab experts will put a plate that encourages any bacteria on it to grow. The process of growing the bacteria in the sample is known as a culture. Chemical tests are performed on the cultured sample to check if there are any baleful bacteria, and what types of bacteria are present in the sample culture. This may take some days to culture the bacteria. So, you need to wait 2-3 days to get your swab test results.

There are no risks or complications associated with a throat swab culture. The test may cause momentary gagging because the back of the throat is a sensitive area, but it shouldn’t be painful.

The Interpretation of the Results

You may need to wait for some days to get the results.

A negative throat swab culture implies that no infectious bacteria are present in your throat. A positive test portrays the presence of streptococci or other bacteria in your throat. If the test result is positive, the results will also reveal which types of bacteria are causing the infection. Once your doctor identifies the cause of the infection, he may opt for a proper treatment plan.

To suppress your bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. Penicillin and amoxicillin are two commonly used medications for bacterial infections. Children may find it difficult to swallow a pill, thus, penicillin is injected if necessary.

Sometimes, OTC drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen may also be useful in relieving throat pain or lessening fever. Most people feel better after taking antibiotics.


What are the risks of this infection?

The risks or complications related to a throat swab culture are minimal. The test may cause temporary gagging because the back of the throat is a sensitive area, but it will not produce any discomfort or pain.

What incubation conditions are required for throat cultures?

The throat swab culture must be incubated for 18 to 24 hours on a sheep blood agar plate. Agar plates that give negative at 24 hours should be reexamined at 48 hours. Rapid antigen detection tests have been developed because of this 24- to 48-hour delay before a throat swab may inform clinical management.

Are throat cultures refrigerated?

Throat cultures should be kept at room temperature. For off site collections, the specimens should be transported quickly to the laboratory with the help of the courier service. Never exceed 24 hours from the time of collection.

Is a throat culture aerobic or anaerobic?

Due to resident anaerobic flora, the following sites are unsuitable for anaerobic cultures and will be rejected: throat and nasopharynx, sputum, bronchoscopy specimens, gastrointestinal contents, voided or catheterized urine, urogenital swabs (and specimens from superficial wounds.

What media is used for throat culture?

The culture media could be blood agar (BA), chocolate agar (CA), Mueller-Hinton tellurite blood agar or Tinsdale agar.

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