Harvard Women's Health Watch

Rapid urine test could reduce unnecessary antibiotic use

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A new test might help doctors better treat patients with urinary tract infections, according to a study published in the Oct. 4, 2017, issue of Science Translational Medicine. These infections prompt some eight million doctor visits each year, and doctors often prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition. However, sometimes the bacteria they are attempting to treat are resistant to first-line anti­biotics. The delay caused by the ineffective medication can, in some cases, cause the patient’s condition to worsen and lead to complications. To eliminate this antibiotic guesswork, researchers developed a new quick-acting antimicrobial susceptibility test that not only tells the doctor within 30 minutes whether the patient has a urinary tract infection, but also what type of bacteria caused it and what drugs will best treat it. The test can also quickly identify cases where antibiotics aren’t needed at all, preventing overuse of antibiotics, which can promote resistance. The same type of rapid testing, might eventually be of use in identifying the best anti­biotics for other types of bacterial infections as well.

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