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What Are the Different Types of Throat Bacteria?

A child with a sore throat, which is often caused by bacteria.
An example of bacteria cells.
A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
Antibiotics are typically prescribed to treat a bacterial throat infection.
A throat culture may be necessary to determine the presence of strep throat.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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The throat or pharynx houses a wide variety of bacteria at any given time. Several studies have been conducted to identify the normal throat flora, the bacteria that are present in most healthy people. Some of the bacteria that live in the throat are capable of causing disease if the host becomes stressed, while others have a neutral or even beneficial role in the health of the host. To find out more about their specific throat bacteria, people can have a bacterial culture, in which a swab of the throat is taken and cultivated to see what grows.

At any given time, bacteria in the genera Mycoplasma, Mycobacteria, Neisseria, Streptococcus, Corynebacteria, Lactobacillus, and Proteus can be found in the throats of many people. Bacteria in the classes Spirochaetes and Actinomycetes are also common, as are the organisms Haemophilus influenze and Pesudomonas aeruginosa. The normal balance of bacteria contributes to the workings of the digestive system, and also acts to repel bad bacteria which might invade the throat.

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Readers may recognize the names of the some of the normal throat flora. Streptococcus is a bacterial genus associated with strep throat, a throat infection caused by colonization with Streptococcus group A bacteria. Neisseria, another inhabitant of the throat, can cause meningitis in the form of Neisseria meningitidis infection, and Corynebacterium diphtheriae is responsible for diphtheria. Having these organisms in the throat does not necessarily mean that one will get sick, unless the host experiences stress or ill health which provide an opening for the bacteria.

Most sore throats and throat infections are actually caused not by bacteria, but by viruses or fungi, in the case of thrush, which is an infection caused by colonization with the yeast Candida albicans. When the balance of bacteria does get out of control and one type starts growing too quickly, people can experience a sore throat and a variety of other symptoms. A throat culture can be performed to see which organism is responsible, and antibiotics can be prescribed to restore the normal balance.

Studies on long term antibiotic usage have shown that people can disrupt the mouth and throat bacteria if they take antibiotics for an extended period of time. This, in turn, can make people susceptible to things like yeast infections, because the bacterial competition for resources is eliminated. This is one reason why medical professionals try to be careful about prescribing antibiotics, and to make sure that patients use antibiotics as prescribed to avoid long-term health problems.

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Discuss this Article

healthy4life
Post 5

I would much rather have a viral throat infection than a bacterial one. Viruses like colds only cause minor sore throats, while bacteria can cause ones that last longer, are more serious, and can have greater complications if you do nothing to treat them.

Perdido
Post 4

@naturesgurl3 – If you have a strep infection, you will know it. This is the worst type of sore throat you can possibly get.

I've had strep before, and my throat swelled so much that I could barely swallow. I had a fever of 100 degrees, and I was so miserable that I was ready to go to the doctor the next day.

It came on in just a few hours, too. That morning, I only had a slightly sore throat, but by that evening, I couldn't swallow and was in a lot of pain.

musicshaman
Post 3

If I have a chronic sore throat, could that be caused by an overabundance of the bacteria that cause strep throat, or is it more likely to be some kind of viral throat infection?

googlefanz
Post 2

Did you know it is even possible to have chlamydia bacteria in the throat? It sounds like an urban legend, but it is actually true.

Having chlamydia bacteria in the throat is rare, because unlike strep throat bacteria, chlamydia has a hard time reproducing in the throat. In fact, chlamydia of the throat is often called a silent disease since it usually doesn't show any symptoms.

The only real symptom is a sore throat, or any other symptom you would experience with a viral throat infection.

The only way that a doctor could really tell is through a test, but it can be easily cleared up by a round of antibiotics.

naturesgurl3
Post 1

Ooh -- I had no idea that there were so many bacteria in the throat at any given time. I guess it's kind of like a kitchen sink drain -- everything goes through there.

But since there's so many, how can you tell if your have a sore throat from a virus or bacteria?

For instance, since most people have the bacteria that causes strep throat anyway, how can you tell whether your sore throat is from bacteria, or if you've got a viral throat infection?

Do you just have to rely on tests, or is there a surefire way to know?

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