AI and robots could help detect urinary tract infections earlier

AI and robots could help detect urinary tract infections earlier


British researchers are working on a new way to recognize urinary tract infections (UTIs) using artificial intelligence and robots.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University have teamed up with Scotland’s National Robotarium and two Scottish nursing home providers for the collaborative project, known as FEATHER (Facilitating health and well-being by developing systems for early recognition of urinary tract infections). The collaborative project was recently awarded about $1.3 million in British government grants.

It’s a high-tech approach to a long-standing problem. Women are more than three times more likely to develop UTIs than men, but UTI symptoms vary, and it can take days to get a reliable diagnosis. Meanwhile, physical discomfort can persist and complications can arise.

Everything from urinary pain and incontinence to temperature changes and confusion can indicate a UTI, and patients awaiting diagnosis can progress to urosepsis, in which the infection spreads from the urinary tract into the bladder and kidneys.

UTIs are particularly common in nursing homes and hospitals because of catheter use, and they are one of the most common hospital-acquired infections.

They’re also common even among those who aren’t using catheters; over 50 percent of women will get a UTI during their lifetime. Women are much more likely to develop UTIs than men because the females’ urinary tract is close to the anus.

The project will place sensors and socially assistive robots with people living in care homes. The sensors will monitor potential signs of infections, including changes in walking function or sleep patterns. If the program’s AI-powered platform detects those signs, it will trigger interactions with the robot and, eventually, a clinician.

The researchers hope the program can help fight antibiotic overuse.

“As the second most common reason for the prescription of antibiotics, the infection makes a significant contribution to the increasingly concerning problem of drug-resistant bacteria,” Kia Nazarpour, the project lead and a professor of digital health at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, said in a news release. Since lab results can take up to two days to come in, clinicians often start patients on antibiotics right away.

In the United States alone, UTI hospitalizations cost an estimated $2.8 billion a year.


Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.