PCR Laboratory Testing

Urine PCR - Urinary Tract Infection Test

Brandywine Urology Consultants is proud to offer our patients the opportunity to get all urologic UTIs. If you’ve had one, you know how disruptive they can be to life. If you haven’t had one, you still could get one.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common reasons for patients to see their providers. UTIs are the cause of more than 8.1 million visits to health care providers each year. About 60 percent of women will get one UTI within their lifetime with approximately 20 to 30 percent of women experiencing recurrent UTIs. 12 percent of men will have at least one UTI during their lifetime.

What is a UTI?  How do you get a UTI?

A UTI develops when bacteria gets into the urine and travels up to your bladder. Large numbers of bacteria live in and around the genital area and can often get into the urine easily––allowing them to travel to the bladder or kidneys. When you have a UTI, the lining of your bladder and urethra become red and irritated just as your throat does when you have a throat infection. This irritation causes symptoms. Most often the symptoms of a UTI are burning with urination, urinary frequency and urinary urgency. Some may experience lower back pain, blood in the urine, cloudy urine or a change in the odor of the urine. If the infection travels up to the kidney, it is termed a kidney infection or pyelonephritis which includes symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, severe back pain. Regardless of how far the bacteria go, they can cause problems.

Women are more likely to get UTIs due to the length of their urethras. A shorter urethra means less distance to travel to reach the bladder. However, people of any age and sex can develop a UTI. The likelihood of developing a UTI is increased if you have diabetes, frequent intercourse, bladder or bowel changes, BPH, kidney stones, menopause, poor hydration, difficulty emptying the bladder, pregnancy, immunocompromised conditions or a urinary catheter.

Diagnosing UTIs

UTIs are diagnosed by analyzing a sample of your urine. There are three methods to diagnose a UTI using a urine sample. Traditionally, a urinalysis and urine culture have been the most common ways to detect a UTI. However, within the last two to three years multiplex PCR-based urine assessment is increasingly being used. The three methods for diagnosing a UTI are:

  • Urinalysis: A quick, in-office test where a dipstick or microscope is used to detect any white blood cells, nitrates or blood in your urine sample. This is a quick look at the urine, but not a very sensitive or specific test to determine what type (if any) bacteria is causing the infection and what best antibiotic should be used to treat that bacteria.
  • Urine culture: Your urine sample is sent off to a lab and the results may take up to seven days to return. At the lab your urine sample is being analyzed in a different and more thorough way. The lab attempts to grow and specifically identify any bacteria from the urine sample and, if so, determine exactly the most sensitive antibiotics to treat/kill the bacteria. This is considered the “gold standard” and is a very sensitive and specific way to diagnose and treat a UTI. 
  • Urine PCR: A Urine PCR test detects the presence of bacteria differently. It is a multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which identifies more bacteria than a traditional urine culture in patients with symptoms of a UTI. It is also done using a sample of your urine.

Why Does Urine PCR Testing Matter?

The PCR urine test exhibits greater accuracy for the detection of bacteria, identifying bacteria in the urine samples of 36% of patients who had a negative urine culture. Additionally, the PCR urine test has a fast turnaround time; typically results are available in a day, whereas, a urine culture can take up to seven days for results to return. 

The explanation for the more accurate and precise results from PCR test versus a urine culture is due to the fact that some bacteria/organisms that can cause a UTI may be slow growing or may require specific growth conditions that may not be available in a lab when attempting to grow bacteria from a urine culture.  The sensitivity, accuracy and quick turnaround time of the urine PCR tests allows us to diagnose the exact bacteria causing your infection, providing you with the correct antibiotic that will effectively rid your infection.  PCR is performed in our own state of the art, high complexity CLIA certified laboratory. 

If you have concerns that you have UTI, have been treated for a UTI that has not resolved, have UTI-like symptoms or have frequent/chronic UTIs– schedule a visit with a provider to discuss testing.

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