Strep throat is a common respiratory tract infection that mostly affects school-aged children, although adults can get it, too. Strep throat is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes which belongs to Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococci bacteria. It is responsible for nearly 30% of sore throat cases worldwide.
Strep throat is characterized by fever, sore throat, and inflamed red tonsils. Strep throat is transmitted via respiratory droplets, which is why the biggest risk factor for transmission is overcrowding. This is also why the most affected age group is school-aged children, due to the number of children and the sharing of equipment between the children. Strep throat is less frequent among adults, responsible for as few as 15% of all sore throat visits to primary care clinics. It's more frequent in military facilities and with adults who live or work with children.
But can Strep throat be transmitted through other routes? Like through oral sex?!
Although it's very rare, catching Strep throat from oral sex can actually happen. Researchers from Tokyo, Japan reported such a case of Strep throat. In this case, a 30-year old man came to the hospital complaining of sore throat and fever following unprotected sex with his partner. He reported that neither he nor his partner had any close contact with children, and they denied having any sexually transmitted disease that would cause their symptoms.
The patient reported five similar episodes with the same symptoms after having sex with his partner. Each one of these episodes of Strep throat occurred within a week of having sexual intercourse. He reported having Strep throat following oral sex, including oral-vaginal and oral-penile sex.
The patient reported taking a 10-day course of amoxicillin after every episode of Strep throat infection. Still, he kept getting the infection within a week of every instance of intercourse. Surprisingly, nonsexual contact with his partner like kissing was not followed by a Strep throat infection.
The patient and his partner were both tested for a number of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, and both tested negative. Both partners were brought in and treated with antibiotics for Strep throat. After this case, neither reported another Strep throat infection.
It's worth mentioning that although it's also very rare, the opposite can occur. Meaning it’s possible to get a genital Streptococcal infection from oral sex. Two previous cases have been reported of streptococcal vaginal and penile infections following oral sex with infected partners.
So in short, the answer to the above question is yes, you can get Strep throat from having oral sex. However, the probability of this happening is very low. So what can we do?! Most importantly, we should be aware of any possible symptoms of Strep throat, and get a rapid test as soon as symptoms start. Once a positive case of Strep has been confirmed, it’s important to start treatment as soon as possible to stop the infection, and stop oral sex during any episode of Strep throat. Additionally, having protected sex always decreases the chances of getting infected. Not only with Strep throat but also with other sexually transmitted infections. Stay safe out there!