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New rapid-results urine culture test promotes antimicrobial stewardship

A new urine culture test from Antech Diagnostics delivers results in less than 24 hours and could help veterinarians prescribe fewer antibiotics when they’re not needed by helping them determine whether a patient’s illness is caused by bacteria earlier in the course of treatment. This is an important step toward curbing the overuse of antibiotics and supporting good antimicrobial stewardship.

The AVMA’s antimicrobial-resistant pathogens report, released last fall, defines antimicrobial stewardship as “the actions veterinarians take . . . to preserve the effectiveness and availability of antimicrobial drugs through conscientious oversight and responsible decisionmaking while safeguarding animal, public, and environmental health.” That includes prescribing antibiotics only when medically necessary. And rapid test results that confirm the presence or absence of bacteria help veterinarians make informed decisions earlier in the diagnostic process—particularly in cases of urinary tract infections.

Antech introduced its FIRSTract Urine Culture test earlier this week. The company says it’s the first automated test for rapid, reliable urine culture results for cats and dogs, returning positive or negative results for the presence of bacteria within 24 hours instead of the usual two- to five-day turnaround for traditional urine cultures.

Jennifer Ogeer, DVM, MSc, MBA, MA, vice president of medical affairs for Antech Diagnostics, told NEWStat that FIRSTract test results compare “exceptionally well” to the results of traditional urine cultures: “Antech assessed more than 500 urine samples to compare the results of FIRSTract rapid urine culture to traditional urine culture.” She said the accuracy rate exceeds 95%.

According to Ogeer, FIRSTract has very few limitations compared to traditional cultures, but there are a few things to consider: “The FIRSTract test requires a minimum volume of 0.50 mL of urine to be submitted, and cannot be run on culture swabs or urine placed in other broth media.” Additionally, she said urine samples that are excessively turbid couldn’t be read and need to be subjected to traditional identification and susceptibility testing.

Ogeer said using FIRSTract doesn’t eliminate the need for doing a traditional urine culture; rather, “it’s a first step to knowing sooner whether a patient has a bacterial urinary tract infection—if the test is positive, practices would still need to do a traditional follow-up culture to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection so they can determine the appropriate antibiotic needed to treat the infection.”

“Used together, these tests can provide the most rapid and robust results to ensure that veterinary patients with urinary tract infections are treated in an expedited and appropriate manner,” Ogeer said. She noted that this can be particularly helpful as practices struggle to accommodate high client volumes during the pandemic by helping them work more efficiently.

FIRSTract is free to hospitals that send urine samples to Antech for culture—Antech will automatically add it to the panel at no additional charge.

This means hospitals can’t order a FIRSTract test on its own: “[It’s] the initial step of the urine culture, which remains the gold standard to identify and quantify bacteriuria and can help differentiate clinically relevant bacteria from contaminants,” Ogeer said.

“The tests should be used together to provide the most rapid and robust results, providing the best support for good antimicrobial stewardship,” she added.

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