New research has shown that some 20 percent of women with UTIs may be turned away from treatment due to substandard testing procedures. Thanks to less-than-stellar methodology, many women with actual infections have likely gone without treatment for the potentially hazardous condition.
While both men and women can get UTIs, women are more susceptible to them due to their anatomy. Of the 150 million UTIs diagnosed each year, the vast majority of those diagnoses belong to women.
Physician and researcher Stefan Heytens, from the University of Ghent in Belgium, explains, “A substantial percentage of women visiting their general practitioner with symptoms of a UTI, who test negative for a bacterial infection, are told they have no infection and sent home without treatment.”
To study the accuracy of the standard testing, researchers measured the bacteria present in urine samples taken from 308 women. Of these, 220 women had the symptoms of a non-complicated UTI, while the remaining women had no symptoms of UTI at all.
The team found that of the women with UTIs, the standard procedure detected bacteria in 80.9 percent of cases. The method consists of dipping some agar into the urine and then culturing it to see if bacteria will grow or not.
The more sensitive testing method, called quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), boasted even stronger results, and detected E.coli bacteria in 95.9 percent of samples, and S. saphrophyticus in 8.6 percent of the samples. According to the researchers, this suggests that many women with a UTI may have an E. Coli infection that goes undiagnosed due to a negative culture.
It’s clear that updates to standard UTI detection methods need to be updated, or women will continue to remain in danger of not being properly diagnosed.