Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Promoting Public Health: Toward a fast, accurate urine test for pneumonia

June 24, 2010

Streptococcus pneumoniae, growing in this laboratory
culture dish, cause community-acquired pneumonia.
Credit: U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(High-resolution version)

Summary

Scientists are reporting the discovery of the potential
basis for a urine test to diagnose community-acquired
pneumonia (CAP), a difficult-to-diagnose lung disease
that is the sixth leading cause of death in the
United States. The test could save lives by allowing
doctors to begin the right treatment earlier than they
do now. The study appears online in ACS’ Journal
of Proteome Research
.

Scientists are reporting the discovery of the potential basis for a urine test to diagnose community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), a difficult-to-diagnose lung disease that is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The test could save lives by allowing doctors to begin the right treatment earlier than they do now. The study appears online in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research.

Here is Carolyn Slupsky, a researcher with the Departments of Nutrition and Food Science & Technology University of California-Davis Davis, Calif., and a member of the study team:

“A variety of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes can cause pneumonia. Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) is among the germs that cause CAP, a form of this respiratory disease that people develop outside the hospital. The problem is that these microbes often can be difficult to detect using conventional blood tests. This results in all too-often delaying the start of the right antibiotic to best treat the disease.”

The UC Davis team measured metabolites in the urine of patients with pneumonia caused by S. pneumoniae and compared these metabolite profiles to those of urine samples from patients with other types of lung diseases, as well as pneumonia caused by a variety of other microbes.

“We found that infection with S. pneumoniae produces a distinct pattern of metabolites in much the same way that that the distinct whorls and curves in fingerprints can identify individuals. Identification of this pattern paves the way for more rapid and accurate diagnosis so that patients can start treatment sooner with the right medication.”

What has made treating certain forms of pneumonia so difficult is that so many other conditions mimic this potentially deadly disease.

“Congestive heart failure, pulmonary infarction, vasculitis, and drug reactions all can look like pneumonia. In addition, chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are frequently complicated by pneumonia. Despite progress in the development of antibiotics, diagnostic imaging, critical care medicine, decision aids, and clinical practice guidelines to assist clinicians with empiric therapy, pneumonia is still the leading cause of death from infection in developed countries.”

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking.

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check our full-length podcast on Promoting Public Health. Today’s podcast was written by Michael Bernstein. I’m Adam Dylewski at the American Chemical Society in Washington.