Tuesday, 17 February 2015

1 in 5 Sore Throats Tied to Scary Bacteria, Study Finds


No test exists for <i>F. necrophorum</i>, which may be more common than strep, researchers say

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A potentially deadly bacteria is responsible for one in five sore throats in young adults, a new study suggests.

Patients with this bacteria -- Fusobacterium necrophorum -- can get negative results on a strep test, but be at risk of an abscess that blocks the airway, researchers report.

"If it looks like strep but it isn't strep, it could be this," said study author Dr. Robert Centor, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine at Birmingham.

Most sore throats get better without treatment, Centor said. But antibiotics should be prescribed when a patient "has a sore throat with fever, difficulty swallowing and swollen tonsils but a negative strep test," he said.

In this study of young people aged 15 to 30, researchers found that more than 20 percent of the sore throats were caused by F. necrophorum -- more than the number caused by group A streptococcal bacteria.

"The most serious complication from this bacteria is a disease called Lemierre's syndrome," Centor said.

"It can lead to serious infections in the lung, liver, brain and bone, and an estimated one of 20 patients who get this [Lemierre's] infection will die," he said. Fortunately, Lemierre's syndrome is extremely rare.

F. necrophorum appears to only infect teens and young adults, and about one in 400 of them will develop a serious complication, Centor said.

Researchers don't know why the infection is confined to this age group, or how this bacteria spreads, he added.

"We don't understand if it is contagious or if it's just there waiting for something to happen," he said.

Unlike strep throat, F. necrophorum cannot be diagnosed with a quick test, Centor said. That's because this bacteria doesn't grow when exposed to air, he explained.

But like strep, F. necrophorum is easy to treat with penicillin, Centor said.

The report was published Feb. 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Jeffrey Linder, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, stressed that only a serious sore throat should be treated with antibiotics.

source : 1 in 5 Sore Throats Tied to Scary Bacteria, Study Finds

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