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The Impact of Point-of-Care Polymerase Chain Reaction Testing on Prescribing Practices in Primary Care for Management of Strep A: A Retrospective Before–After Study



Rapid antigen detection tests (RADTs) are the standard of care (SOC) for testing in patients with suspected group A β-hemolytic Streptococcus (Strep A) infection. Due to lower sensitivity, guidelines recommend confirmatory microbiological culture following negative RADT results. This process is time-consuming, and adherence is often poor, resulting in high rates of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing. We sought to evaluate the impact of switching from RADTs to point-of-care (POC) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing on use of antibiotics in primary care, when used as part of an antibiotic stewardship initiative.


In this retrospective before-after study, electronic medical records of any patients presenting with suspected acute pharyngitis (June 2018-May 2019) across 15 outpatient primary care clinics were evaluated. Strep A was detected using the cobas Strep A assay (cobas Liat system).


Analysis of 10 081 eligible patient records showed that POC PCR testing resulted in a 44.1% reduction in antibiotic prescribing for patients with a negative POC PCR test result (10.1% PCR vs 18.0% RADT; P < .0001). Rates of antibiotic prescription varied across clinical sites, ranging between 10.7% and 33.8% and 12.4% and 34.4% during the use of PCR tests and RADTs, respectively. POC PCR had no impact on prescription rates in patients with positive POC test results compared to RADTs (76.2% vs 76.5%, respectively). More than 99% of antibiotics were prescribed during the initial primary care encounter.


As part of a broader antibiotic stewardship initiative, implementation of POC PCR as SOC in outpatients with acute pharyngitis symptoms reduced the volume of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions.

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