NIR device to detect urinary tract infections

A wireless, credit-card sized device based on NIR spectroscopy shows promise for diagnosing lower urinary tract infections (UTIs), especially in children, the elderly and people with neurological conditions. Babak Shadgan and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia were able to diagnose UTI in 12 paediatric patients using the device, which uses NIR to measure tissue oxygenation in the bladder wall.

By comparing these results with measurements from the patient’s thigh as a control site, researchers were able to determine when infections were present. The research is published in the Journal of Pediatric Urology.

“When the measurement over the bladder is significantly higher than the measurement on the control site, it may indicate the bladder is inflamed,” said Shadgan.

The procedure is very different from the standard method of diagnosis, which involves collecting urine and testing it for the presence of bacteria—a costly procedure that can take up to 72 hours for definitive results, and that is not always practical in young children or patients with spinal cord injury.

UTIs, while common across all age groups, can cause serious complications if left untreated, including kidney damage and sepsis. Children, the elderly and those with neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries, are particularly at risk.

“The hallmark sign of a urinary tract infection in adults is painful urination,” said Shadgan. “People with spinal cord injury, and children may not present with the typical symptoms of UTI. One of the leading causes of reduced quality of life among persons with spinal cord injury is urinary tract infection, and in some cases it can result in serious infections and renal failure.”

Larger clinical trials are required to investigate the accuracy and sensitivity of the method. Shadgan is currently testing his method to screen for UTIs in people with spinal cord injury in a study led by Dr Mark Nigro. The research team hopes to one day equip at-risk patients with handheld devices for daily self-screening.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in children

  • UTIs in young children can indicate urinary tract abnormalities and may be associated with life-threatening sepsis in newborns.
  • UTIs are the most common bacterial infection in children under two years of age.
  • Delayed treatment of a UTI may lead to renal (kidney) scarring.
  • In infants up to three months of age, UTIs affect 7.5 per cent of girls, 2.4 per cent of circumcised males and 10 per cent of uncircumcised males who present with a fever.

UTIs in people with spinal cord injuries (SCI)

  • Urinary tract infection is the most common urological complication in people with SCI.
  • Sepsis, frequently caused by UTIs, is a leading cause of mortality among patients with SCI.
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