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J Clin Epidemiol. 1999 Jun;52(6):539-45.

Detection of antimicrobial activity in urine for epidemiologic studies of antibiotic use.

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  • 1Sections of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, Veterans General Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Republic of China.


Antibiotic resistance is the inevitable consequence of the selective pressure of antimicrobial drug use and the adaptive plasticity of the microorganisms. Excessive and irrational use of antimicrobial drugs is a problem in all countries. It is particularly troublesome in developing countries where there is a heavy burden of infectious diseases. This study was designed to determine whether detection of antimicrobial activity in the urine might be a useful tool for epidemiologic studies of the interaction between antibiotic use and resistance in developing countries. A laboratory marker is necessary because the history of antimicrobial drug use may be unreliable. Serial specimens or spontaneously voided urine were obtained from healthy volunteers given a single oral dose of commonly used antimicrobial drugs. Urine was also obtained from hospitalized patients the morning after the last dose of an antimicrobial drug and from untreated controls. Assays were performed with standard American Type Culture Collection (Rockville, MD) stains of Bacillus stearothermophilus, Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus pyogenes. Antimicrobial activity could not be detected in pretreatment urine. After a single oral dose, the beta lactam antibiotics and erythromycin could be detected for about 12 to 24 hours, whereas clindamycin, tetracycline, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, and ciprofloxacin could be detected for 48 or more hours. In hospitalized patients, receiving multiple drugs, the following were the sensitivity and specificity for detection of antimicrobial activity: for B. stearothermophilus, 100.0% and 85.9%, respectively; for S. pyogenes, 94.9% and 94.9%, respectively; and for E. coli, 71.8% and 98.7%, respectively. The combination of E. coli and Streptococcus pyogenes exhibited a sensitivity of 97.4% and specificity of 94.9%. Detection of antimicrobial activity in urine is a promising method to determine antimicrobial drug use in epidemiologic studies, particularly in populations in which drug use history is unreliable.

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