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Urine culture: what is it and what is it used for?

We have all taken a urine sample before. But how do we know what will happen to the sample as soon as it is handed over to the specialist? Urine culture is one of the techniques used to isolate pathogens.

Last update: March 22, 2021

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a very common disease. Scientific studies suggest that between 50 and 60% of all women will have a urinary tract infection at some point in their lives. There are many different germs that can lead to such an infection, but luckily the specific pathogen can be detected with the urine culture.

In 1995, the direct and indirect costs of these infections in the United States reached $ 2 billion a year. Of course, knowledge of the causative agent is crucial for a quick recovery of the patient.

What is a urine culture used for?

First you have to indicate that a urine culture and a urine test are not the same thing. The latter consists of a series of tests that are carried out on the patient's samples. These include macroscopic, microscopic and chemico-physical tests and, if necessary, a urine culture at the end of the examination.

Therefore, a urine culture for diagnosis is not required for every urine test. This is considered if the practitioner suspects a urinary tract infection in adults or children, as described in the United States National Library of Medicine.

How is the sample taken?

In most cases the urine sample is taken at home and then taken to a trusted health center. In any case, the Committee for Clinical Microbiology of the Chilean Society for Infectious Diseases defines each of the steps in detail in a document.

Obtaining the sample

This is a critical step in the urine sample as the fluid can be contaminated with commensal bacteria from the patient's skin and genitourinary ducts. According to the American Society for Microbiology, will validated any sample with less than 5% contamination.

There are several types of sampling, but we will focus on the most typical of them: the patient needs to urinate in a vessel at home and then take it to the health center. The following points should be considered in this procedure:

  • The patient should use the morning urineas this is the most concentrated.
  • Avoid drinking excessive fluids prior to sampling, as this will dilute the urine.
  • It is recommended to collect a volume of 25 to 50 milliliters. The minimum amount that can be used for urine culture is 3 milliliters.

One should note that the sample according to the magazine Anales de Pediatría can also be obtained by other techniques, such as a bladder puncture or temporary urinary catheterization. Although these are more sterile than the urine sample, they are much more invasive and therefore only used in exceptional cases.

What happens to the sample?

According to the medical reports mentioned earlier, there are several analyzes that are done on a urine culture, but the most common is microbiological sowing. There are the following special features:

  • A germination tray is used and the urine sample is spread on a medium conducive to bacterial growth. This usually consists of a mixture of nutrient agar as a base on a Petri dish.
  • The enucleated sample is incubated for 16-18 hours at 35-37 ° C.
  • After incubation, count the colonies of bacteria that have grown on the plate.

The premise is simple: If bacteria are present in the patient's urine, they will multiply in the urine culture. This is how we can tell if the person is infected. Further tests - or if it is the specific agent for this pathogen - can be used to find out the exact pathogen causing the infection.

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection

Knowing if you need a urine culture to relieve long-term discomfort can be difficult. The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms as the most common symptoms of urinary tract infection:

  • Constant urge to urinate
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Cloudy, reddish, or strong smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain in women

Depending on the section of the urogenital tract in which the bacterial colonies have settled, the symptoms are different. However, the symptoms already described, as well as fever attacks and abdominal discomfort, are very common.

Urine culture results

The results of the test are easy to interpret: a normal degree of proliferation means that everything is in order, so that a bacterial infection of the patient is excluded. On the other hand, a positive test result means that bacteria or fungi are present in some area of ​​the urinary tract.

In this case the specialist in charge of the case will determine an appropriate antibiotic or antifungal agent. Make sure to strictly follow the doctor's recommendations, as stopping treatment too early can complicate the further course.

Urine Culture During Pregnancy: Is It Important?

According to the organization Inatal urine culture is particularly important during pregnancy. Pregnant women are due to the physiological changesthat occur during pregnancy, more prone to bacterial infections.

In addition, many are asymptomatic. A urinary infection, even if it does not cause clinical signs in the mother, can lead to undesirable complications, such as an increased risk of premature birth.

The importance of urine culture

As you learned in this article, urine culture is one of the tests that go along with a urinalysis when the doctor suspects the patient is infected. This simple laboratory technique enables the scientists to isolate and identify the particular pathogen.

The Taking the sample is very easy and can be done at home although there are exceptional cases that require punctures and catheters. A negative culture shows that there are no bacteria in the patient's genitourinary tract, while a positive culture requires antibiotics or antifungal agents to be used.

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