Rapid strep test: A diagnostic test commonly used to demonstrate whether streptococcus bacteria ("strep") are present in the throat. A throat infection with strep needs to be treated with an antibiotic.
The traditional test for a strep throat has been a throat culture; the major drawback is that the results of the throat culture take 2 to 3 days.
The rapid strep test is much quicker. It can produce results within minutes to hours. A cotton swab is rubbed against the back of the throat to gather a sample of mucous. This takes only 1 to 2 seconds. It makes some people feel a brief gagging or choking sensation. The mucus sample is then tested for a protein that comes from the strep bacteria.
There are several different types of rapid strep tests. They can only detect the presence of what are called "Group A" strep, the type most likely to cause serious throat infections. They do not detect other kinds of strep or other bacteria.
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Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012