A rare medical syndrome that changes the color of urine

Anita Durairaj

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Yes, your urine can turn purple and it is due to a specific medical syndrome involving urinary catheter bags called Purple Urine Bag Syndrome.

Urinary catheter bags or drainage bags are used to drain and collect urine from the bladder. The catheter is just a tube that is placed in the body.

Usually, you would need a urinary catheter if you suffer from urinary incontinence, or you are unable to empty your bladder, or you have had surgery or other medical conditions. There are many different types of catheters that come in different sizes and materials.

Catheters are common medical products that are used in hospitals and in private depending on the patient's needs but there have been some rare cases where the catheter seems to turn a patient's urine into a rare purple colour.

Normal urine is yellowish in color but in the 1970s, there was a report where yellow urine turned purple. Thereafter, throughout the years, there have been random and rare cases where urine has turned purple for some people.

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A recent incident occurred in France in 2019 when a woman had been hospitalised for several days. She had to use a urinary catheter during her hospitalisation. After 10 days, her urine turned purple like the color of eggplant.

The reason for the purple color is due to a reaction between bacteria and a chemical called tryptophan. Doctors tested the patient's urine in the urinary bag and found that the urine contained a bacterial called Klebsiella pneumoniae. In addition, the patient was eating a diet rich in tryptophan so the bacteria reacted with the tryptophan inside the urinary bag. The chemical reaction created purple urine.

The Purple Urine Bag Syndrome could be a good test to see if you have a bacterial infection but otherwise the purple color is harmless. After a course of antibiotics, the urine should be back to normal.

Sources: Live Science, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Everyday Health

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