The Utility of Rapid Group A Streptococcus Molecular Testing Compared with Throat Culture for the Diagnosis of Group A Streptococcal Pharyngitis in a High-Incidence Rheumatic Fever Population

J Clin Microbiol. 2021 Nov 18;59(12):e0097821. doi: 10.1128/JCM.00978-21. Epub 2021 Sep 22.


Group A streptococcus (GAS) causes significant morbidity and mortality in New Zealand and is responsible for invasive disease and immune sequelae, including acute rheumatic fever (ARF). Early treatment of GAS pharyngitis reduces the risk of ARF. In settings with a high burden of GAS disease, a rapid GAS pharyngitis diagnostic test with a strong negative predictive value is needed to enable prompt and accurate treatment. This prospective study compares the Xpert Xpress Strep A molecular test (Cepheid) to throat culture and a second molecular method, the BioGX group A streptococcus-open system reagent (OSR) for BD Max for the diagnosis of GAS pharyngitis. Throat swabs were collected from the emergency department and wards of Middlemore Hospital, New Zealand. The BioGX group A streptococcus OSR for BD Max contributes to the composite gold standard of throat culture or both molecular methods positive. Basic demographic, clinical, and laboratory data were collected. Two hundred five out of two hundred fourteen swabs were suitable for analysis. Of those, 28/205 (13.7%) were GAS culture positive, 45/205 (22%) Xpert Xpress Strep A positive, and 38/205 (18.5%) BioGX positive. Compared to culture, the sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of the Xpert Xpress Strep A molecular test were 100%, 90.4%, 62.2%, and 100%, respectively. Compared to the composite gold standard, the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) were 100%, 95.8%, 84.4%, and 100%, respectively. Seventeen samples were Xpert Xpress positive but culture negative; 6 of these 17 swabs represent true positives with evidence of recent GAS infection. Ten samples were culture negative but both Xpert Xpress and BioGX positive. The Xpert Xpress Strep A molecular test is highly sensitive with a strong negative predictive value and rapid turnaround time. It can be safely introduced as a first-line test for throat swabs in a high-incidence ARF population.

Keywords: group A Streptococcus; molecular test; pharyngitis.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques
  • Pharyngitis* / diagnosis
  • Pharynx
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rheumatic Fever* / diagnosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Streptococcal Infections* / diagnosis
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / genetics