Washington: Suffering from sore throat? Don’t take it lightly. American scientists have warned that this could be a sign of something worse.

Earlier, it was believed that group A streptococcal bacteria was the primary cause of sore throat or pharyngitis but a new study found that another bug Fusobacterium necrophorum, which is associated with deadly Lemierre syndrome, could also be responsible for the condition.

The researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) thus suggested that physicians should also look for the presence of Fusobacterium — when treating sore throat in young adults and adolescents — that worsens or is strep-negative, journal Annals of Internal Medicine reported.

“Fusobacterium, which only has been recognised as a potential cause of pharyngitis in youngsters in the past five years, may cause up to 10 per cent of sore throat in those 15-24 years of age,” lead author Robert Centor said.

“More important, Fusobacterium is associated with a rare but life-threatening complication called Lemierre syndrome,”

Mr. Centor was quoted as saying by the Science Daily. Lemierre syndrome mostly affects adolescents and is rarely seen in pre-adolescents. It begins with a sore throat, followed by an infected jugular vein after four to five days.

Abscesses in other parts of the body may occur.

Group A strep is also associated with a serious complication — rheumatic fever — but the incidence rate of Lemierre following exposure to Fusobacterium is much higher, and associated with greater morbidity and mortality.

He said clinicians should expand their diagnostic process for adolescents with sore throat to consider Fusobacterium .


“The physicians need to be aware of the red flags that might indicate Lemierre syndrome, including unilateral neck swelling, rigours, night sweats or high fevers,” he added.

Aggressive treatment with antibiotics such as a combination of penicillin and metronidazole or with clindamycin alone is appropriate. — PTI