Different vehicles of transmission of the same pathogen may induce different clinical manifestations of the disease. The hypothesis was tested that the clinical manifestation of food-borne streptococcal pharyngitis is different from air-borne streptococcal pharyngitis. The symptoms and signs of 77 patients with endemic air-borne streptococcal pharyngitis compared to 103 patients with epidemic food-borne streptococcal pharyngitis (T type 8125/imp19, M protein negative) and 11 patients with secondary air-borne epidemic streptococcal pharyngitis (T type 8/25/imp19, M protein negative) were prospectively evaluated. The patients with food-borne streptococcal pharyngitis had a significantly higher frequency of sore throat, fever, pharyngeal erythema, tonsillar enlargement and submandibular lymphadenopathy and a lower frequency of coryza and cough compared to the patients with endemic air-borne streptococcal pharyngitis. Although both food-borne and airborne streptococcal infection caused upper respiratory tract infection, the clinical manifestation of food-borne streptococcal pharyngitis was more severe and more confined to the pharynx compared to the endemic air-borne disease. Involvement of the nasal mucosa and bronchial tree was more common in air-borne streptococcal pharyngitis than in the food-borne disease.