At-Home Rapid Detection of Strep Throat

A Case-Study in Parent-Led Testing Education

Strep throat is one of the most common medical conditions among children, and although the rate of complications of related infections, such as glomerulonephritis and rheumatic fever, is on the decline, timely and accurate treatment of strep throat is crucial to avoid these life-threatening complications.


In order to develop timely and accurate treatment of strep throat, rapid detection methods should be used. Recently, research efforts have led to the development of tests capable of rapidly detecting the proteins of strep throat-causing bacteria. These tests, also known as rapid antigen detection tests (RADTs) (as with COVID) for Streptococcal Pharyngitis (Strep Throat), can give highly accurate results within 10 minutes of taking them. They are performed manually and easily by taking a throat swab and then inserting it into the Antigen detection solution. 

We’ve all become unfortunately familiar with this process since the pandemic outbreak. However, strep will be around much longer than two years.


These strep throat RADTs have been widely and regularly used in health facilities to improve early detection and treatment. The speed of strep throat infection detection can be increased if parents are trained to use these RADTs at home for their sick children. This will not only increase the detection speed of strep throat but can also reduce the burden of unnecessary on healthcare facilities. 


Parents just need to take a throat swab from their children, insert it into the solution provided and then communicate the results by email and or telephone to the responsible healthcare personnel; if the result is positive, then an antibiotic treatment for strep throat will be provided. And if the test result is negative, the parents will be advised on the appropriate symptomatic management. 


Despite the fact that many of these home-based rapid antigen detection tests for strep throat are available online. Their rate of utilization and the ability of the parents to use them to test for strep throat is relatively unknown, especially in the United States. That's why scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Medical Department tested the hypothesis that parents could be trained and learn how to run RADTs for strep throat. 


The parents in this study were trained on rapid strep throat tests using a 3-minute teaching video; the video described the objectives of strep throat rapid detection, the procedure for taking a throat swab from the child and performing the rapid test. After the video, the parents were asked to take the throat swab and perform the test on their children. Out of 76 parents who agreed to participate in this study, 71 were successful in obtaining the throat swab and performing the rapid test for strep throat. Moreover, after the training, more than half of them were confident in their skills in throat swab taking and strep throat test performing. 


In summary, the authors concluded that if these parents were able to perform rapid strep throat tests in their homes, they could have avoided their visit to the pediatric clinic. No school or work time could have been lost. And clinicians at the clinic could have more time and resources to focus on more urgent cases. This opens up the potential for home-based strep throat rapid detection tests in the future.