Pneumonia ... Quick New Urine Test

It is often very difficult to distinguish between a respiratory infection that is caused by a virus and one which is caused by a bacteria. This is an important distinction because a viral infection will not respond to the commonly used antibiotics whereas a bacterial infection usually will.

On August 30, 1999 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) cleared for marketing a simple, quick, first-of-a-kind urine test for detecting Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae), one of the bacteria that is a leading cause of pneumonia.

The laboratory test, made by Binax, Inc., of Portland, Maine, provides results in 15 minutes. The new test is meant to be used after consideration of a patient's symptoms. The aim of the test is to rule in S. pneumoniae as the probable cause of the pneumonia. The test results can enable a probable diagnosis to be made quicker so treatment can be started sooner with the appropriate antibiotics to combat the S. pneumoniae.

To do the test, a swab is dipped into a urine specimen, removed and inserted into a special test device. The test detects S. pneumoniae antigen in the urine of infected patients within 15 minutes. A positive result indicates that the patient most likely has pneumococcal pneumonia. Results should be confirmed with lab culture of the bacteria.

Conventional methods for diagnosing pneumonia, primarily using sputum or blood, are lengthy and require from two to three days up to several weeks. These conventional tests are often complex and the results are not always reliable. The new test is much quicker, more reliable and easier to use.