Southampton team develops urine test that could provide alternative to blood tests to monitor inflammation

Urine-test-inflammation2020A research team based at University Hospital Southampton has developed a simple urine test that could provide a quick and low-cost alternative to blood tests to monitor inflammation.

Increased levels of inflammation are the result of the body's immune response to infections or disease and infections may worsen symptoms or progression of disease over time in many conditions.

These range from heart disease, dementia and cancer, to hearing loss, frailty and arthritis and, currently, inflammation is monitored through the use of blood tests.

However, a team led by Dr Ian Galea, an associate professor in experimental neurology at the University of Southampton and consultant neurologist at UHS, has now developed a urine test which could provide a non-invasive, quick and low-cost alternative.

“Tracking systemic inflammation is important when assessing disease activity or response to treatment in inflammatory diseases and this is currently performed through blood tests,” explained Dr Galea.

"However, we have demonstrated that this urine test for neopterin, a final product of inflammation which is excreted into the urine, is accurate and can deliver results quickly and at a lower cost."

It was developed by PhD student Charlotte Stuart, a postgraduate researcher in clinical and experimental neurosciences, who said it was "particularly attractive" as it can assess inflammatory activity over a longer period.

"This test is a particularly attractive option because it is non-invasive and quick, cost-effective and it integrates inflammatory activity over a longer period compared with a blood sample.

"In addition, the low protein level in urine means there is less interference which would otherwise make analysis more difficult.”

The test was trialled in groups including young healthy individuals with infections, older people with higher levels of inflammation and people with multiple sclerosis and the results were published in The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine.

Dr Galea added: “The method was tested for its measurement properties and results show that this is an excellent way to track inflammation in both healthy individuals and people with multiple sclerosis.

“Further work is now needed in other inflammatory disorders, such as those affecting gut and joints, or in diseases like dementia where systemic infection or inflammation makes the condition worse, to assess its usefulness in these contexts.”

Posted on Friday 21 February 2020