Urine is not sterile: use of enhanced urine culture techniques to detect resident bacterial flora in the adult female bladder

J Clin Microbiol. 2014 Mar;52(3):871-6. doi: 10.1128/JCM.02876-13. Epub 2013 Dec 26.


Our previous study showed that bacterial genomes can be identified using 16S rRNA sequencing in urine specimens of both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients who are culture negative according to standard urine culture protocols. In the present study, we used a modified culture protocol that included plating larger volumes of urine, incubation under varied atmospheric conditions, and prolonged incubation times to demonstrate that many of the organisms identified in urine by 16S rRNA gene sequencing are, in fact, cultivable using an expanded quantitative urine culture (EQUC) protocol. Sixty-five urine specimens (from 41 patients with overactive bladder and 24 controls) were examined using both the standard and EQUC culture techniques. Fifty-two of the 65 urine samples (80%) grew bacterial species using EQUC, while the majority of these (48/52 [92%]) were reported as no growth at 10(3) CFU/ml by the clinical microbiology laboratory using the standard urine culture protocol. Thirty-five different genera and 85 different species were identified by EQUC. The most prevalent genera isolated were Lactobacillus (15%), followed by Corynebacterium (14.2%), Streptococcus (11.9%), Actinomyces (6.9%), and Staphylococcus (6.9%). Other genera commonly isolated include Aerococcus, Gardnerella, Bifidobacterium, and Actinobaculum. Our current study demonstrates that urine contains communities of living bacteria that comprise a resident female urine microbiota.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01642277.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Microbiological Techniques / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Specimen Handling / methods*
  • Urinary Bladder / microbiology*
  • Urine / microbiology*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01642277