HealthDay News — Fusobacterium necrophorum is responsible for one in five sore throats in young adults, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Currently, pharyngitis guidelines focus solely on group A β-hemolytic streptococcal infection, noted Robert Centor, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine at Birmingham, and colleagues.

“European data suggest that in patients aged 15 to 30 years, Fusobacterium necrophorum causes at least 10% of cases of pharyngitis; however, few United States data exist,” wrote the researchers.

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To estimate the prevalence of F. Necrophorum, the researchers studied 312 students who sought treatment for sore throat at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Student Health Clinic. These students were compared with 180 students who did not have a sore throat.

F. Necrophorum bacteria was found in 20.5% of patients with sore throat symptoms and about 9% in those without sore throats. It was the most common bacteria found, reported the investigators.

The results of Centor and colleagues’ study “does not warrant reconsideration of pharyngitis guidelines,” according to Jeffrey Linder, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in an accompanying editorial. Linder noted that many clinicians overcomplicate the treatment of sore throat in adult patients.

“Many clinics indiscriminately test all patients who present with a sore throat,” explained Linder. “[Overtesting] may improve patient flow, but it exposes patients to inconvenience, discomfort, expense, false-positive test results, and unnecessary visits for a self-limited illness.”


  1. Centor  RM et al. Ann Intern Med. 2015; doi: 10.7326/M14-1305
  2. Linder JA. Ann Intern Med. 2015; doi: 10.7326/M14-2899