Urinary antigen testing for pneumococcal pneumonia: is there evidence to make its use uncommon in clinical practice?

ERJ Open Res. 2020 Jan 10;6(1):00223-2019. doi: 10.1183/23120541.00223-2019. eCollection 2020 Jan.


Microbiological confirmation of pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae remains challenging as culture from blood or pleural fluid is positive in only 15-30% cases. It was hoped that a commercially available urine antigen test would improve diagnosis and consequently patient care, with improved antimicrobial stewardship. Urine antigen testing for pneumococcal pneumonia is recommended in current British Thoracic Society guidelines, whilst the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and The American Thoracic Society and the Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines consider its usage. Urine antigen testing is therefore widely used in hospital medicine. The assay is noninvasive, simple and culture-independent, producing a result within 15 min. Whilst initial evidence suggested urine antigen testing had a high sensitivity, recently data have suggested the actual sensitivity is lower than expected, at approximately 60-65%. Evidence has also emerged indicating that clinicians infrequently rationalise antibiotics following positive urine antigen testing, with multiple publications evaluating the role of urine antigen testing in clinical care. Furthermore, urine antigen testing does not appear to lead to any cost saving or reduction in length of hospital stay. We therefore conclude that the pneumococcal urinary antigen test does not alter patient management and leads to no cost saving, and has a lower than expected accuracy. Therefore, it may be time to make its use uncommon in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review