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  • 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021
  • Project No: 463
  • Funding round: FR18


Most sore throats are caused by viruses. Taking antibiotics does not help with viruses and can result in side effects and antibiotic resistance. General practitioners use symptom scores to decide if a sore throat is caused by bacteria. A rapid throat swab test is being used in a new service in community pharmacies. However, we do not know how common bacterial infections are in patients going to pharmacies with a sore throat, if using symptom scores together with swab tests can help identify when antibiotics should be used, or if we can measure markers of inflammation that could be used in new tests from throat swabs.

What we want to do

Find out if it’s possible to run a study to see how useful throat swab tests and symptom scores are in helping decide if antibiotics are necessary for treating sore throats in pharmacies.

How we will find out

After involving pharmacists in developing the study, we will conduct a small study with 80 adults and children seen in pharmacies for sore throat. We will collect information about their illness and two throat swabs (for bacterial culture and inflammation). We will also interview patients and pharmacists to find out about their views on participation.

Patient & Public Involvement (PPI)

A public participant who suffered complications from streptococcal throat infections helped us design the study. Another member of the public will join the study team to help with design, patient materials, and publicising the results.

What we will do with the results

In the long run the results will help us understand whether swab tests or symptom scores at a pharmacy will help treat sore throats better. This is a small study to find out if a large trial is possible with the ultimate aim to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing.


Mark Lown, Michael Moore, Paul Little, Beth Stuart, Jennifer Bostock (Southampton)

Gail Hayward, Margaret Glogowska (Oxford)

Alastair Hay (Bristol)


Amount awarded: £133 633.00

Projects by themes

We have grouped projects under the five SPCR themes in this document

Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.