New Urine Test May Lead to Quicker, More Accurate Diagnosis of Pneumonia

December 14, 2009

A new nuclear medicine technique may allow physicians to diagnose pneumonia-like symptoms with a urine test.

A new nuclear medicine technique may allow physicians to diagnose pneumonia-like symptoms with a urine test.

Carolyln Slupsky, a biochemist and assistant professor in the University of California, Davis departments of Nutrition, and Food Science and Technology, and a team of researchers used MRI spectroscopy to identify "a chemical 'fingerprint' for the type of pneumonia caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae." These chemical fingerprints were then compared to the "fingerprints" of other kinds of pneumonia and non-infectious lung diseases." The urine of patients with Streptococcus pneumoniae had a telltale chemical profile that clearly distinguished those people from healthy individuals or patients with other ailments.

"By analyzing urine samples collected at various intervals during the patient's hospitalization, we could actually observe sick patients recover because their recovery was reflected in the chemical composition of their urine," Slupsky said.

The researchers collected and analyzed urine samples from "hundreds" of patients who were either healthy or suffering from some type of pulmonary disease or infection.

The researchers say that current guidelines used to diagnose pneumonia, such as clinical symptoms, X-ray, and an analysis of the patient's blood or sputum, can take over 36 hours to yield results, "and tend to yield a high rate of false-positive results." In addition, the researchers said, "more than 80 percent of patients admitted to the hospital with pneumonia are misdiagnosed, leading to delays in treatment with the appropriate antibiotic." Results of the study and the initial success of this new test could eventually improve diagnostic rates and treatment outcomes.

"This is the first study to demonstrate that NMR-based analysis of metabolites in urine has the potential to provide rapid diagnosis of the cause of pneumonia," Slupsky said. "It also shows that we can use this technology to quickly and easily monitor patient recovery. The goal is a tool for rapid, accurate diagnosis so that patients can quickly begin treatment with the appropriate medication."