Faster, cheaper urinary tract infection test

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is the second most common infectious disease that affects millions of people globally each year. The 48-hour wait for urine test report delays treatment, and inappropriate use of antibiotics make the problem even worse by giving rise to multidrug-resistant pathogens.

Now, researchers have developed a new test that can provide results in just 4 hours and also indicate which medicine should be prescribed for the infection. The diagnostic technique was developed by scientists at BITS-Pilani, Hyderabad campus, and published in BMJ Innovations.

The scientists visited hospitals in Punjab, Rajasthan and Telangana and collected urine samples from suspected UTI patients. The urine was filtered in a special filter to trap the pathogenic bacteria, and the bacteria was cultured in a specially designed growth media.

Antibiotic sensitivity strips

The strip contains 15 common antibiotics and helps in identifying the antibiotic sensitivity of the bacteria and deciding the most appropriate medicine to be used for the patient.

The new diagnostic technique has 93% sensitivity and 96% specificity. The researchers found that among the 426 tested samples, conventional microbiological method showed 243-positive and 183-negative whereas the new test showed 234-positive and 192-negative. There was very small fraction of false positive and false negatives reported. Further tests were carried out with more people.

The long delay in getting the test results often leads to wrong antibiotics being used. “Due to doctors prescribing broad spectrum antibiotics, the main agents of UTI [E. coli and K. pneumoniae] have developed antimicrobial resistance. These resistant bacteria not only cause long lasting infection but also reduce effectiveness of the available antibiotics. So our main aim was to develop a test which can minimise the irrational use of antibiotics,”

According to the scientists, the test does not require any other specialised equipment, dedicated space/lab or trained personnel. As the strip already has the panel of antibiotics, it is easier, faster and cheaper.

The team has already won several awards for the test. “The test is now undergoing multi-centric clinical validation in various labs and hospitals. We are waiting for the permission from CDSCO [Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation] to commercialise the test. It will probably hit the markets in three months,” adds Dr. Kapur.

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