Highly Sensitive Molecular Assay for Group A Streptococci Over-identifies Carriers and May Impact Outpatient Antimicrobial Stewardship

Robert R. Tanz*, Elizabeth J. Ranniger, Jason L. Rippe, Renée L. Dietz, Caroline L. Oktem, Christine L. Lowmiller, Stanford T. Shulman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Timely, accurate diagnosis of group A streptococci (GAS) pharyngitis prevents acute rheumatic fever and limits antibiotic overuse. The illumigene group A Streptococcus assay (Meridian Bioscience, Cincinnati, OH) is a molecular test for GAS pharyngitis with high sensitivity and specificity. We sought to determine whether the illumigene test is more likely than throat culture to be positive in patients without pharyngeal symptoms and explore the limits of detection of the test. Methods: Patients 3-17 years of age were eligible if they had no history of pharyngitis or use of antibiotics within the previous 2 weeks; there were no upper respiratory infection symptoms, sore throat or fever and no signs of infection. Culture and illumigene were performed on duplicate throat swabs. Excess lysate from a subset of illumigene tests was evaluated by real-time polymerase chain reaction. Institutional Review Board approval was obtained. Results: We enrolled 385 patients from February 2016 to October 2017; mean age was 10 yr; 51% were male. Most visits were for health supervision (69%). Significantly more illumigene tests (78/385, 20.3%) than throat cultures (48/385, 12.5%) were positive (χ2; P =0.0035). Illumigene was "indeterminate" for 3 patients, leaving 382 pairs of swabs for analysis. Results were discordant for 32 of 382 pairs (8.4%); 31 of 32 (97%) were illumigene-positive/culture-negative (McNemar test; P < 0.000001). Real-time polymerase chain reaction was negative in 4 of 13 (31%) tested illumigene-positive lysates; the paired culture had been negative in all four. The limit of detection for the illumigene test was 55 colony forming units/mL. Conclusions: The illumigene test is significantly more likely than throat culture to yield positive results in patients without GAS pharyngitis. Failure to appropriately select patients for testing may negatively impact antimicrobial stewardship efforts without benefit to patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)769-774
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Infectious Disease Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • antimicrobial stewardship
  • group A streptococci
  • nucleic acid amplification test
  • pharyngitis
  • streptococcal carriers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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