Antibacterial Lozenges for the Treatment of Strep Throat Symptoms

Acute sore throat is one of the most common symptoms of any upper respiratory tract illness, which causes difficulty swallowing and redness on throat and tonsils. Most sore throats are caused by viral agents or allergies and are self-limiting, meaning they can resolve without medications.


However, some sore throat infections are caused by bacteria and lead to strep throat. Although strep throat bacteria cause less than a quarter of illnesses, strep throat can lead to severe complications if left untreated.


The fact that strep throat infections should be treated with antibiotics doesn't mean prescribing antibiotics on a whim. Antibiotics tend to be overprescribed to treat sore throats without first distinguishing between bacterial and viral causes of strep throat. In case of a viral infection, antibiotics are ineffective and unnecessary. This overprescription of strep throat antibiotics contributes to the current global antibiotic-resistance crisis. The only way to know for sure if you have strep throat, is by testing for it. Rapid strep throat tests are now available for home use and can give fast, accurate results in minutes.

Can Lozenges Treat Strep Throat?

For the majority of the cases of sore throats, over-the-counter medications such as lozenges are the primary means of treating the symptoms. Generally speaking, medicated lozenges are better at relieving sore throat symptoms than other over-the-counter methods.


One medication used in lozenges is hexylresorcinol. Reports showed that lozenges containing hexylresorcinol could significantly decrease the symptoms of the acute sore throat in 2 hours. Additionally, it offers a numbing effect and has antiviral and antibacterial properties that help soothe your irritated throat. But can it kill strep bacteria?


A laboratory study was performed in the United Kingdom to test the efficacy of hexylresorcinol-containing lozenges against a group of bacteria that causes sore throat. The scientists tested hexylresorcinol against five bacteria: Fusobacterium necrophorum, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus. Among these strep throat-causing bacteria, Streptococcus pyogenes is considered the most dangerous one.


Streptococcus pyogenes belongs to a group of bacteria called Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococci or, in short (GAS) which causes most bacterial sore throat cases known as strep throat. If left untreated, strep throat can lead to dangerous complications, including abscess of the tonsils (which requires tonsillectomy to be treated), Rheumatic heart disease, and glomerulonephritis (inflammation in the kidneys).


Strep throat can be treated with simple antibiotics such as amoxicillin, but the scientists wanted to find out the treatment potential of hexylresorcinol-containing lozenges. For this study, hexylresorcinol lozenges were dissolved in artificial saliva to mimic the natural environment of the mouth. This mixture was then added to previously prepared cultures contacting the targeted sore-throat-causing organisms, including Streptococcus pyogenes.


Then the efficacy was measured one minute after hexylresorcinol lozenges were dissolved. This study showed that hexylresorcinol lozenges had an effectiveness of >99.9% in reducing the number of bacterial colonization against all five tested bacteria within 5 minutes, which is the time required for these Lozenges to be dissolved in the mouth. Finally, the authors concluded that hexylresorcinol lozenges could be an effective over-the-counter strep throat medication, offering both local pain relief and rapid antibacterial activity against sore throat-causing bacteria, but should only be used to soothe the pain. Antibiotics are still necessary to avoid any risks.


These lozenges are typically found under the brand names Mucinex, Strepsils, and Sucrets in the United States, although other brands of lozenges may also include hexylresorcinol. Be sure to read the label to find the lozenge that can help fight an infection while soothing your sore throat. Antibiotics are still the number one treatment for strep; just make sure you have strep by taking an at-home strep throat test.