How Pathology Can Detect the Underlying Cause of Recurrent UTIs

Aug 03, 2023
How Pathology Can Detect the Underlying Cause of Recurrent UTIs
Urinary tract infections are common. For most people, a course of antibiotics treats their symptoms — but when UTIs keep coming back, traditional protocol isn’t enough. Learn how pathology could be the key to finding a more effective treatment plan.

Up to 60% of women experience urinary tract infections (UTIs) in their lifetimes, making them one of the most common bacterial infections in the world. And while most UTIs are easily treated with antibiotics, as many as one in five women suffer recurrent UTIs.

Recurrent UTIs are painful and frustrating — and they could indicate an underlying health issue. Traditional urine cultures aren’t always accurate enough to pinpoint the cause of recurring symptoms, but at Path MD Labs, we have a better way.

Advancements in pathology, particularly RT-PCR testing for UTIs, offer a more comprehensive approach to detecting the underlying cause of recurrent UTIs, leading to more effective treatment strategies. Here’s what you need to know.

Identifying recurrent UTIs

Anyone of any gender can get a UTI, and women are particularly susceptible. Most UTIs go away with a course of antibiotics, but if the infection keeps coming back, it’s a sign of recurrent UTI.

In general, recurrent UTIs are diagnosed if you get at least two infections within a six-month period or at least three within a 12-month period. The symptoms of recurrent UTIs are similar to those of typical UTIs and usually include:

  • Frequent, intense urge to urinate
  • Burning sensation with urination
  • Cloudy or discolored urine
  • Strong- or foul-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • General malaise

You might feel the urge to urinate frequently, even if you pass only small amounts of urine. When you urinate, you might notice a burning sensation, unusual color, or strong odors. Recurrent UTIs can also cause feelings of fatigue, weakness, or malaise.

Recurrent UTIs can be caused by a variety of factors, and identifying the exact cause is key to finding the most effective treatment plan.

RT-PCR testing: a game-changer for UTI detection

Most of the time, doctors use urine cultures to diagnose UTIs. They collect a urine sample and test it to identify the bacteria causing the infection.

But while urine cultures are helpful in many cases, they have limitations — especially when it comes to detecting less common bacteria. Plus, culture-based methods can take several days to produce results, delaying the start of treatment.

RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing is an advanced, more accurate approach to recurrent UTI detection. Unlike traditional urine cultures, RT-PCR testing rapidly and accurately identifies specific bacterial pathogens causing the infection.

It works for a variety of bacteria, including those that can be difficult to grow in culture. This advanced technology detects the genetic material (DNA or RNA) of the bacteria, allowing for highly sensitive and specific results.

The advantages of RT-PCR testing for UTIs

Advanced pathology offers a few major benefits in the detection of recurrent UTIs.


RT-PCR testing provides results in a matter of hours. When you get your results faster, you can start targeted antibiotic therapy based on the identified pathogen sooner.

Comprehensive analysis

RT-PCR testing simultaneously detects multiple pathogens in a single sample, offering a more comprehensive assessment of the infection to better customize treatment.


RT-PCR testing accurately identifies a wide range of bacterial pathogens, even those that can be missed by conventional urine cultures. Plus, it can also detect viral and fungal pathogens, providing a more complete picture of the underlying cause.

Antibiotic resistance detection

Antibiotic-resistant UTIs are on the rise, which means traditional antibiotic treatment isn’t always effective. RT-PCR testing can detect specific antibiotic resistance genes, helping guide treatment decisions and prevent inappropriate antibiotic use.

Recurrent UTIs can interfere with your health and your quality of life. But thanks to advancements in pathology, healthcare providers now have a powerful tool to accurately and rapidly identify the cause of recurrent UTIs.

Contact Path MD Labs online or call our Los Angeles, California, office at 424-245-7284 to learn more about RT-PCR testing for UTIs.