Pneumonia is a common ailment which sickens millions of Americans each year, killing thousands of them. Rapid and accurate diagnosis is essential for proper treatment. Currently, diagnosis can take more than 36 hours, requiring X-rays and bacterial culture of blood or sputum. Misdiagnosis can lead to use of the wrong or no antibiotic, increasing the deadliness of the disease.
Carolyn Slupsky, currently at UC Davis, used a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to find a marker for Streptococcus pneumonia (the most common type of community-acquired pneumonia) in patients’ urine. The test turned out to be so accurate that the patients’ recovery could be charted by following the chemical composition of their urine.
Using the products of the body’s own metabolic processes, or metabolomics, is a promising field of study. Researchers hope that it can be used as a diagnostic tool for a great variety of infections.