For a rapid strep test, the throat and tonsils are swabbed to collect bacteria from the infected area for testing. The bacteria are analyzed to see whether Group A strep (streptococcal) bacteria are causing the sore throat.
A good sample of throat secretions is needed to make sure the test is accurate. A person must remain very still during the procedure so that the doctor is able to collect enough secretions for an accurate test.
Results of a rapid strep test are available in 10 to 15 minutes.
A rapid strep test may be done in the following cases:
- A person has symptoms of strep throat infection.
- A person has been exposed to strep during an epidemic of rheumatic fever.
- The person has a personal or family history of rheumatic fever or other serious infections (such as toxic shock syndrome) and has been exposed to strep. In these cases, if there are no symptoms, a culture may be done first because it is more accurate than a rapid strep test.
In general, it is not necessary to test people who have been exposed to strep throat but do not have any symptoms.
Findings of a rapid strep test may include the following.
A normal or negative test means that strep bacteria may not be present.
- Sometimes, negative results are wrong. This means that you may have a negative rapid strep test result and still have strep throat.
- A throat culture may be done if the rapid strep test result is negative.
An abnormal or positive strep test means that strep bacteria are present.
- Antibiotic treatment can be started.
- A positive test result does not distinguish those people with an active strep infection from those who are carriers of strep bacteria but actually have a viral infection (rather than a bacterial one).
The rapid strep test costs less than a throat culture and may diagnose strep throat quickly.
Complete the medical test information form (PDF) to help you prepare for this test.
By Healthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology Last Revised August 2, 2012