If you are experiencing UTI symptoms yet have received a negative UTI test, using an enhanced UTI test kit can prove valuable in providing more insight.
UTI testing methods have improved over the years, but testing technologies evolve as we learn more about the urinary microbiome. Because of this, the newest technologies aren’t immediately available within healthcare systems. However, some are available to order privately, direct to your home.
Digital Microbiology by SBL was inspired to develop new UTI test kits when family members of their scientific team reported frustration at receiving repeat negative UTI test results from the NHS. Loved ones were suffering from recurrent UTI symptoms but receiving conflicting diagnoses and treatments.
Digital Microbiology is tackling this familiar issue by developing a new diagnostic tool using DNA sequencing methods. Using this technology, they’ve built a comprehensive tool to identify all organisms found in patients’ urine and vaginal microbiomes. This will help advise which antibiotics are likely to be the most effective treatment option against any known or suspected pathogen identified.
- Who is Digital Microbiology? >>>>
- Antibiotic Resistance via MIC Testing? >>>>
- All the Results, All Yours to Use >>>>
- Test at Home: Where and How to Order >>>>
Who is Digital Microbiology?
For the past 15 years, as a non-profit lab, Systems Biology Laboratory UK’s (SBL) research has focused on cancer immunotherapy and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME). More recently, their personal motivations pushed them to establish their first commercial service, Digital Microbiology. This is dedicated to investigating difficult-to-diagnose UTIs via an at-home UTI test kit. Their ability to report comprehensive profiles of urinary and vaginal microbiomes makes their approach stand out.
Digital Microbiology is continually expanding its libraries of information to progress research. This reduces the time to receive results, and provides a deeper understanding of factors contributing to urinary and vaginal microbiome health.
DNA-Based Vaginal and UTI Test Kits with Comprehensive Results
The process from diagnosing to treating a UTI or vaginal infection is complex. It requires a careful and holistic assessment of current symptoms, medical history and, ideally, additional guidance via lab results. Both vaginal and UTI test kits are becoming more accessible in the UK. However, the interrelation between the vaginal and urinary microbiomes are not as widely considered in clinical care.
Vaginal and UTI test kits may be ordered individually, by opting to test both urine and a vaginal swab. Yet, the impact of these two microbiomes on lower urinary tract symptoms can be more thoroughly considered in discussion with your clinician.
|“We firmly believe that clinicians can only properly understand and treat urogenital conditions by tracking every organism present in sample microbiomes along with accurate levels for each. Currently, clinicians are trying to make sense of a complex world using only the restricted keyhole view that most current culture and DNA-based tests offer. Healthcare professionals, researchers and sufferers all desperately need a better testing tool, and we think we’ve finally developed it."
Presenting the information in a user-friendly way, you’ll have an in-depth look into the state of your urinary and vaginal health. This approach equips you and your clinician with more information to better guide treatment decisions.
The Science Behind Digital Microbiology’s Microbiome Profiling
Digital Microbiology’s UTI test kit includes an analysis of the urine sample using third-generation Nanopore Technologies (ONT). This rapid test uses DNA sequencing technology to analyze your urinary microbiome and determine expected antimicrobial resistance.
Organisms from urine and vaginal samples have DNA extracted and analyzed against Digital Microbiology’s growing database. The database consists of 4,100+ different bacteria species, 14 yeasts, almost 200 archaea (single cell organisms), 11,000+ bacteriophages, and 21,000+ plasmids.
Plasmids are specific pieces of DNA found within bacteria. They contain antibiotic-resistant genes, capable of transferring to other bacteria and further increasing resistance.
Plasmids and bacteriophages results aren’t included on patient reports. However, gathering this data further expands Digital Microbiology’s database and serves as a valuable tool for UTI researchers.
Once these organisms have been analyzed, a report is developed. This includes every identified organism and determines the levels of each within the original sample. For urine samples, the absolute value of organisms is reported while relative values are reported for vaginal swabs.
Digital Microbiology aims to give patients access to the entire gamut of what’s been identified in their sample rather than limit information to what’s deemed typical vs. atypical.
UTI or Vaginal Microbiome Imbalance?
Fairly new research is informing a change in how we analyze UTIs. Only in 2014 was it discovered that urine is not sterile and the bladder actually has a microbiome. It was also discovered that there is some level of interconnectedness between the urinary microbiome and the vaginal microbiome. What does this mean for UTIs?
When the vaginal microbiome is imbalanced, these disruptions can have a direct effect on the urinary microbiome. The lack of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, or an increase of harmful bacteria, impact the health of the vagina. As the vaginal microbiome changes, pathogenic organisms can travel to the urinary tract resulting in UTI symptoms. This is even when vaginal symptoms aren’t present.
This can be especially important during pregnancy. Being able to capture a healthy image of your vaginal and urinary microbiome and keeping tabs on them throughout your pregnancy could help mitigate the chances of a UTI, and if necessary, offer appropriate treatment options.
Antibiotic Resistance via MIC Testing
As mentioned, Digital Microbiology has an expansive library of reference organisms crucial to identifying potential pathogens and guiding treatment recommendations.
Using a high resolution identification technology, the lab can identify different types of organisms and strains within closely related organisms. Even if the lab hasn’t previously identified a particular strain in your sample, this advanced testing method can determine if a strain is closely related to an organism identified in the library. This newly identified strain is then added to the growing database.
All organisms in Digital Microbiology’s existing database have been tested against a panel of 21 commonly prescribed antibiotics, using Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC). MIC testing is an in vitro technique that determines the resistance and susceptibility of organisms to certain antibiotics.
Traditional resistance methods report whether organisms are simply ‘sensitive’ or ‘resistant’ to an antibiotic. Whereas, MIC testing can offer more nuanced information that points clinicians towards the most effective antibiotics.
MIC testing can assist clinicians in rating treatments from least effective to most effective. Traditional antibiotic sensitivity testing can determine that multiple antibiotics may be effective against an organism. But, MIC testing takes this a step further by providing additional insight into how effective each antibiotic may be.
One antibiotic may only need a low concentration to be effective against a particular organism. While, another antibiotic could also be effective but require a higher concentration. This more comprehensive approach to antibiotic resistance can further guide treatment decisions.
Currently, Digital Microbiology includes MIC analysis with each UTI test kit by matching same-species organisms found in samples with their MIC-tested database.
In mid-2024, they will start offering individualized MIC testing to provide additional insights for patients. At this time, antibiotic sensitivity reports based on their current database is the fastest treatment recommendation option and still remains relevant.
Test Results Beyond Bacteria
In addition to bacteria, the UTI test kit from Digital Microbiology also tests for 20,000+ plasmids, 11,000 phages, and a selection of commonly occurring yeasts.
Phages, or bacteriophages, are a type of virus that infect bacteria. Phages naturally exist within the body and do not need to be treated, so these results are not included on patient reports. However, identifying those present within the urinary tract and incorporating this data into Digital Microbiology’s growing database can help to progress UTI research.
All the Results, All Yours to Use
Typically, within 48 hours of your sample arriving at the lab, you’ll receive a fully quantified list of bacterial and yeast species identified within either your urine, vaginal sample, or both. Results are accessed via a secure, personalized account page.
|“Digital Microbiology has been amazing. Their test results are consistent, and I love that you get the results so fast and can see which antibiotics they recommend. They’re a really kind & helpful team who genuinely care."
G. Simmonds, rUTI patient
Your most recent test results will be displayed alongside previous tests so you can view your entire testing history and easily compare results, symptom severity and advised treatment history over time.
You can view and interact with a sample report from Digital Microbiology to see how your results will be displayed within your own secure portal.
Organisms found at a level above the reporting threshold are automatically listed, with an option to view organisms found at levels below the reporting threshold. Digital Microbiology also includes informative blurbs about the microorganisms and their historic status as a pathogen or commensal organism:
It should be noted that even when traditional pathogenic bacteria are not present, a disruption of the urinary or vaginal microbiomes can result in lower urinary tract or vaginal symptoms. Therefore, this may be considered during discussion and interpretation of results with your clinician. Indeed, disruption of the urinary microbiome can have a greater impact on symptoms and development of a UTI “as much as the invading uropathogen itself.”
With complete data around organism identification and MIC-based antibiotic recommendations for known pathogens, you and your clinician will have a comprehensive picture of how the state of your urinary or vaginal microbiome may be contributing to lower urinary tract symptoms, with the ability to make a highly informed decision about treatment options.
Test at Home: How to Order a Digital Microbiology UTI Test Kit
Patients in the UK mainland can order tests directly from Digital Microbiology’s website. At this time, the UTI test kit and vaginal microbiome profiling are available to those in the UK mainland only.
Digital Microbiology is currently working on getting its testing service accredited so it can work directly with the NHS and, in the future, run as an NHS diagnostic lab. Because the test is not covered under the NHS, a clinician’s signature is not required. This unrestricted access to an enhanced UTI test kit offers opportunities for diagnosis to many people with recurrent UTIs who have experienced the obstacles of using standard urine culture alone.
Order a Digital Microbiology Test:
Urine Microbiome Profiling – £189
Vaginal Microbiome Profiling – £189
Clinicians interested in administering Digital Microbiology’s UTI test kit can contact them directly via this form. Patients can order a test directly from Digital Microbiology and share results directly with their clinician.
This article was written in collaboration with Digital Microbiology by SBL. Clinicians or patients seeking information are encouraged to visit the Digital Microbiology FAQ page, and those wishing to make contact can do so via email.