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BACKGROUND: Sore throat is a common and self-limiting condition. There remains ambiguity in stratifying patients to immediate, delayed or no antibiotic prescriptions. NICE recommends two clinical prediction rules (CPRs), FeverPAIN and CENTOR, to guide decision-making. AIM: Describe the diagnostic accuracy of CPRs in identifying streptococcal throat infections. DESIGN AND SETTING: Adults presenting to UK primary care with sore throat, who did not require immediate antibiotics. METHODS: As part of the Treatment Options without Antibiotics for Sore Throat (TOAST) trial, 565 participants, aged ≥18, were recruited on day of presentation to general practice. Physicians could opt to give delayed prescriptions. CPR scores were not part of the trial protocol but calculated post-hoc from baseline assessments. Diagnostic accuracy was calculated by comparing scores to throat swab cultures. RESULTS: 81/502 (16.1%) of patients had Group A, C or G streptococcus cultured on throat swab. Overall diagnostic accuracy of both CPRs was poor: area under receiver-operating-characteristics curve 0.62 for Centor; 0.59 for FeverPAIN. Post-test probability of a positive or negative test was 27.3% (95% confidence intervals: 6.0%-61.0%) and 84.1% (80.6%-87.2%) for FeverPAIN ≥4, vs 25.7% (16.2%-37.2%) and 85.5% (81.8%-88.7%) for Centor ≥3. Higher CPR scores were associated with increased delayed antibiotic prescriptions (χ2=8.42, P=0.004 for FeverPAIN ≥4; χ2=32.0, P<0.001 for Centor ≥3). CONCLUSIONS: In those that do not require immediate antibiotics in primary care, neither CPR provide a reliable way of diagnosing streptococcal throat infection. However, clinicians were more likely to give delayed prescriptions to those with higher scores.

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Diagnosis, Minor illness, Respiratory illness