Use of Host Response to Refine the Diagnosis of Group A Streptococcal Pharyngitis

Jinsheng Yu, Eric Tycksen, Wei Yang, Thomas J. Mariani, Soumyaroop Bhattacharya, Ann R. Falsey, David J. Topham, Gregory A. Storch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Current diagnostic tests for pharyngitis do not distinguish between symptomatic group A Streptococcus (GAS) infection and asymptomatic colonization, resulting in over-diagnosis and unnecessary use of antibiotics. We assessed whether measures of host response could make this distinction. Methods: We enrolled 18 children with pharyngitis having Centor scores of 4 or 5 and 21 controls without pharyngitis or other acute infections. Both groups had throat cultures, molecular tests for GAS and respiratory viruses and IgM serology for Epstein-Barr virus. Host response was evaluated with white blood cell count (WBC), C-reactive protein (CRP), procalcitonin (PCT), and sequencing of RNA from peripheral blood leukocytes. Results: Of 18 cases, 11 had GAS pharyngitis, 3 had adenovirus pharyngitis and 4 had other pharyngitis. Among asymptomatic controls, 5 were positive for GAS. WBC, CRP, and PCT were higher in subjects with pharyngitis compared to asymptomatic controls including those with GAS. Transcriptional profiles from children with symptomatic GAS were clearly distinct from those of children in all other groups. The levels of two genes, CD177 and TLR5 each individually accurately distinguished between symptomatic and asymptomatic GAS. Optimal diagnostic sensitivity and specificity were achieved by the combination of CRP and PCT, and by each of the two gene markers. Conclusion: In this exploratory study, we showed that traditional measures of inflammation and markers of host gene expression distinguish between symptomatic and asymptomatic GAS. These results point to future rapid molecular approaches for improving the diagnosis of GAS pharyngitis, that may help reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-491
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • C-reactive protein
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • pharyngitis
  • procalcitonin
  • transcriptome


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