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Urine culture test

A urine culture test detects urinary tract infection-causing yeast or bacteria. If bacteria are in the urine sample, an antibiotic sensitivity test can likely determine the most effective antibiotics. Your doctor or healthcare provider may order a urine culture test if you have a hard-to-treat or chronic UTI.

What is a urine culture?

A urine culture checks urine for microorganisms (germs) that cause infections. Urine or pee is the body’s liquid waste product, while culture is the medical term for growing microorganisms like yeast and bacteria in the lab.

In the lab, the laboratory professional will add growth-promoting substances to the urine sample, and if yeast (fungus) or bacteria is present, they will multiply. This growth often indicates infection in the urinary tract.

What is this test for?

A urine culture detects bacteria and yeast in the urine that causes UTI. Urine contains low levels of microorganisms, such as yeasts and bacteria, which move into the urinary tract from the skin. The microbes multiply, causing a UTI.

Your healthcare professional may order a urine culture if you have UTI symptoms such as burning or pain during urination, lower back pain, strong-smelling or cloudy urine, or frequent urge to urinate.

Urine testing can also detect sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, a urine culture isn’t the most suitable test for STDs in adults. Urine testing can check for some STDs like chlamydia, but this testing method detects chlamydia genetic material in the urine and isn’t a culture test.

Who needs a urine culture test?

Your healthcare professional may order a urine culture test if you have hard-to-treat or frequent UTIs. Generally, a urine culture is only for people showing UTI symptoms. UTIs can affect anyone but usually affect more women than men.

Risk factors for frequent UTIs are:

  • Frequent intercourse, especially if you use spermicide or have sex with new partners
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease, including kidney stones
  • Weakened immune system from an autoimmune disease, cancer treatments or organ transplant
  • Problems with draining the bladder fully, especially if you have a urinary catheter draining urine

What does the testing involve?

Urine is a waste product from the body. The kidney produces urine, while the bladder collects it until you are ready to urinate. Usually, the urine doesn’t contain significant levels of microorganisms. However, yeast or bacteria in the urinary tract can multiply, leading to a urinary tract infection.

Most UTIs result from Escherichia coli (E.coli) infection, one of the most common bacteria in the human bowel. Other common bacteria that cause UTI are Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Klebsiella and Proteus.

If there are bacteria in a urine sample, then the urine will be tested for antibiotic susceptibility to help provide an effective treatment.

How is a urine sample collected for testing?

A urine culture test requires a mid-stream urine sample so bacteria in the urethra and the hands aren’t introduced into the sample. The procedure for collecting mid-stream urine includes the following.

  • Wash your hands before you start the sample collection
  • For females, hold the labia apart while urinating
  • Avoid collecting the initial urine stream as it may become contaminated with bacteria, skin and urethral cells.
  • Midway through urination, collect a urine sample in a sterile screw-top containing.
  • Close the cap tightly and wash your hands again.
  • Ensure you take the urine sample to the lab as quickly as possible to prevent further growth of organisms.
  • You can preserve the urine sample in a refrigerator if you can’t deliver it on the same day.

Patients with a catheter can also get uncontaminated specimens following the same hygienic procedures. Urine samples can be collected directly from the bladder using a needle and syringe process called suprapubic aspiration, but this method is usually for infants and young children where collecting reliable mid-stream urine samples is difficult.

The laboratory scientist will spread the urine sample across one or more agar plate surfaces and place the plates in an incubator at body temperature. If bacteria don’t grow on the agar plates overnight, the culture result is negative for significant infection from a microorganism.

However, if yeast or bacteria is present in the agar plate, the lab scientist will count the total number of organisms (colony count) and further identify the organisms using additional molecular or biochemical testing. Further testing can help determine the antibiotics that will effectively treat the infection.

Is any test preparation necessary to ensure a good quality urine test sample?

Generally, no preparation is necessary. However, your provider may instruct you not to urinate for at least one hour before your test and to drink a glass of water 15 – 20 minutes before the urine sample collection.

This will ensure you produce enough urine for the test. Ensure you follow the instructions provided to collect a clean urine sample.

Normal results

A normal growth shows a normal result, meaning there is no infection. The normal ranges may be slightly different in laboratories. Some laboratories test different samples or use different samples. Consult your healthcare provider to interpret your specific test result.

Abnormal results

An abnormal or positive result shows yeast or bacteria grew in the culture. This usually indicates a bladder or urinary tract infection.

Other tests can help your provider know which yeast or bacteria are causing the infection and the effective antibiotics to treat them.

How much is a urine culture?

The cost of a urine culture test depends on several factors, such as if you have insurance, where you take the test and the type of test. The total cost of the test may include the lab fee, laboratory analysis and fee for visiting the doctor’s office.

When will my results be available?

You should get a call from your doctor’s office within 1 – 3 days. The doctor will go over the result with you.

If you have an infection, your doctor may likely prescribe antibiotics. If you get antibiotics, ensure you complete the prescribed medication. The infection often clears but may reoccur, especially in sexually active women.

Sexual intercourse increases the risk of infection in young women, while oestrogen deficiency and post-menopause increase the risk of infection in older women. The risk of an infection is also higher in older men with an enlarged prostate.

Ensure you take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor. An infection in your urethra or bladder can spread to your kidneys and damage them.

If you experience urinary tract infection symptoms, ensure you visit Blood London at Suite E, 117a Harley St, Marylebone, London W1G 6A, for a urine culture test. You can contact us at 020 71830244 or [email protected] to schedule an appointment for your urine culture test.

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Go to the Harley Street clinic for your blood draw and pay for your test in person

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As soon as the results are ready, the will be sent to you by your chosen method

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Advice from expert UK doctors

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