Signs and symptoms of Group A versus Non- Group A strep throat: A meta-analysis

Thuy N. Thai, Ariella P. Dale, Mark H. Ebell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Introduction. Both non-Group A streptococcal (non-GAS) pharyngitis and Group A streptococcal (GAS) pharyngitis are commonly found in patients with sore throat. It is not known whether or not they present with similar signs and symptoms compared to patients with non-streptococcal pharyngitis. Methods. MEDLINE was searched for prospective studies that reported throat culture for both GAS and non-GAS as a reference standard, and reported at least one sign, symptom, or the Centor score. Summary estimates of sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratios (LR+ and LR-), and diagnostic odds ratios (DOR) were calculated using a bivariate random effects model. Summary receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were created for key signs and symptoms. Results. Eight studies met our inclusion criteria. Tonsillar exudate had the highest LR+ for both GAS and non-GAS pharyngitis (1.53 versus 1.71). The confidence intervals of sensitivity, LR+, LR-, and DOR for all signs, symptoms, and the Centor score between two groups overlapped, with the relative difference between sensitivities within 15% for arthralgia or myalgia, fever, injected throat, tonsillar enlargement, and tonsillar exudate. Larger differences in sensitivities were observed for sore throat, cervical adenopathy, and lack of a cough, although the difference for lack of a cough largely due to a single outlier. Discussion. Signs and symptoms of patients with GAS and non-GAS pharyngitis are generally similar. No signs or symptoms clearly distinguish GAS from non-GAS infection. Further work is needed to determine whether Group C streptococcus is a pathogen that should be treated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-238
Number of pages8
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 23 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Group A
  • Non-Group A
  • Pharyngitis
  • Signs
  • Streptococcus
  • Symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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