"It is probably unnecessary to throw away your toothbrush after a diagnosis of strep throat," study co-author Dr. Judith Rowen, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Rowen's team presented the findings Saturday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
In the study, Rowen and colleagues first tried to grow group A Streptococcus -- the bacteria that causes strep throat -- on toothbrushes that had already been exposed to the bacteria in the laboratory, but had not been used by children. The germ grew and remained on the toothbrushes for at least 48 hours.
The team then tested whether the strep bug would grow on new toothbrushes used by 14 children who had strep throat. The children brushed their teeth for one minute and the toothbrushes were then placed in a sterile cover and taken to a lab where they were tested for the bacterium.
These toothbrushes were compared to toothbrushes used by 13 patients with sore throats that weren't strep throat and 27 healthy young people.
The researchers reported that the strep germ grew on only one of the 56 used toothbrushes, and that toothbrush had been used by someone without strep throat. Although the other toothbrushes did not grow the strep bacteria, they did grow other bacteria that are common in the mouth, the researchers said.
They cautioned that larger studies need to be conducted to confirm that the strep pathogen does not grow on toothbrushes used by children with strep throat.
Studies presented at medical meetings typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about strep throat.