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Measles and Mumps Throat Swab Test

Last updated April 17, 2019

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

A scientist holding a petri dish in the lab with a monitor and microscope in background.

What are the other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • Measles and Mumps Viral Culture Throat Swab Test
  • Measles and Mumps Virus Isolation Throat Swab Test by RT-PCR

What is Measles and Mumps Throat Swab Test? (Background Information)

  • Measles (rubeola) and mumps (parotitis) are viral infections of the respiratory tract. They are spread through saliva, respiratory secretions, and aerosolized droplets of respiratory secretions.
  • An individual may be infected with measles for about 10 days before symptoms appear. This is called the incubation period. The recovery period may last several weeks. However, complications often occur, which can be life threatening
  • Complications of measles range from ear infections and diarrhea to blindness. Immunocompromised individuals and those with underdeveloped immune systems, such as children, are especially susceptible
  • The incubation period for mumps is between 2-3 weeks. The recovery period may last several weeks. During this time, the immune system controls the virus and the infection becomes self-limiting
  • However, complications from mumps may also occur. These complications include inflammation of the testicles (orchitis), ovaries (oophoritis), and meninges of the brain (meningitis)
  • Individuals who have received the measles, mumps, and rubeola (MMR) vaccine are less susceptible to be infected by these viral infections
  • The Measles and Mumps Throat Swab Test detects infection by measles or mumps viruses. They often consist of culture tests early in the course of an infection and genetic tests later in the course of an infection.

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Measles and Mumps Throat Swab Test?

Following are the clinical indications for performing a Measles and Mumps Throat Swab Test:

  • Determining resistance to measles or mumps
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Body rash
  • Tenderness and pain in the testicles
  • Gray-white patches on the tonsils
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Loss of appetite

How is the Specimen Collected for Measles and Mumps Throat Swab Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Measles and Mumps Throat Swab Test:

Sample required: Throat swab

Process: Gently scraping the back of the throat with a sterile Q-tip shaped device (throat swab).

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test. 

What is the Significance of the Measles and Mumps Throat Swab Test Result?

  • A positive result may indicate an infection with measles or mumps

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results based on the overall clinical scenario. 

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

In the US, the number of cases of mumps and measles has declined from nearly 1 million in 1941 to fewer than 150 in 1997. This is attributable to vaccination and improvements in hygiene.  

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Dec. 8, 2014
Last updated: April 17, 2019