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FDA approves a UTI test from a St. Louis startup that could help reduce antibiotic resistance

The BacterioScan 216DX system, a test for urinary tract infections.
BacterioScan, Inc.
The BacterioScan 216DX system would reduce the amount of time doctors take to diagnose a UTI from two days to three hours.

A St. Louis biotech startup has secured approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell a device that helps doctors quickly diagnose urinary tract infections. 

The device, called the BacterioScan 216DX, transmits a laser through urine samples to count bacteria. If the instrument detects that bacteria are growing, that signals that a patient has an infection. The BacterioScan can reduce the time it takes to make a UTI diagnosis from two days to just three hours. 

A faster diagnosis can help doctors avoid over-prescribing medications that contribute to antibiotic resistance, said Dana Marshall, president and CEO of Bacterioscan. 

"In U.S. hospitals, maybe two-thirds of the samples that get processed are urine that's tested for UTI," Marshall said. "Of those, about 80 percent are negative. So this test is just a fast way to remove all those negative samples from the workflow so that the skilled people can focus on known positive samples and so patients who don't have an infection can be taken off of antibiotics." 

Marshall added that because UTI's are fairly common infections and are responsible for many emergency room visits, faster diagnoses could help cut costs within the health care system. 

Being able to identify an infection quickly is also critical for elderly patients or those who have chronic illnesses that make them more severly affected by infections, said Justin Starke, a Mercy Hospital physician. 

"There are people you really need to treat quickly," Starke said. "You need to do that in order to prevent progression of the infection. If it's in their bladder, it can ascend the urinary tract to infect the kidneys. If someone is elderly, then they will very commonly experience an alteration of their mental status, which we term as delirum, and that can have real consequences and be life threatening for a particular patient." 

The device will first be used in hospital laboratories, and the company has recently entered into a sales and distribution agreement with Fisher Healthcare. BacterioScan is funded by BioGenerator, the investment arm of BioSTL.  BacterioScan hopes to expand its use to doctor's offices and eventually use the technology to detect blood infections. 

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.