A new method for identifying bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) will lead to much faster, more effective treatment as well as a reduction in costs. The procedure, described in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, could eventually be used for the identification of micro-organisms in other bodily fluids, including blood and spinal fluid.
Scientists at the University Hospital Essen in Germany tested urine samples from in-house patients and were able to effectively separate and accurately identify bacteria using a technique called Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization-Time of Flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry.
Currently, bacteria from urine are identified by biochemical testing of the bacterial colonies that are able to grow on agar plates. This standard method is not ideal; in the best case scenario, results are available after 12 hours, but longer waiting times are not uncommon. If the patient has already been treated with antibiotics, this can impair bacterial growth on agar which increases the probability of misclassification. If doctors are unable to precisely identify the bacterium causing the UTI, a broad spectrum antibiotic is prescribed. These are less effective than specifically targeted antibiotics and also encourage development of antibiotic resistance.
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