Treatment for urinary tract infections advancing

Treatment for urinary tract infections advancing

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common infections diagnosed in women. Some women are more susceptible to the infection, and now researchers may have a better understanding of why.

The acidity of urine, as well as the presence of small molecules related to diet, can influence how well bacteria can grow in the urinary tract, according to a new study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

“Many physicians can tell you that they see patients who are susceptible to urinary tract infections,” says senior author Jeffrey P. Henderson. “We often don’t know why certain people seem to be prone to recurrent UTIs. For a long time, we had inexpensive antibiotics that worked really well for this. But over the last 10 to 15 years, we have seen a huge jump in bacterial infections that are resistant to many of these drugs.”

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis used cultures of E. coli and samples of individual urine to help them pinpoint specifically what could prevent the bacterial growth. They found that when a specific protein was more present, it restricted bacterial growth by depriving the bacteria of the iron it needed to grow. The proteins thrived in an environment with a more neutral pH.

In addition, metabolites called aromatics were also found to limit bacteria growth. Metabolites, which are products of the metabolism, are produced by microbes in the gut while digesting certain foods. This means that what a woman eats could impact the likelihood of bacteria growing.

This discovery could change the way UTIs are treated.

“Physicians are very good at manipulating urinary pH,” says Henderson. “If you take Tums, for example, it makes the urine less acidic. But pH is not the whole story here. It’s an incredibly complex medium that is changed by diet, individual genetics and many other factors.”

“It’s possible that cranberries may be more effective when paired with a treatment to make the urine less acidic,” Henderson says. “Enterobactin is particularly good at binding iron in urine, so it may open up new opportunities for developing antimicrobial drugs that work very differently from traditional antibiotics.”

This is just the beginning for prevention of UTIs, researchers say. But more needs to be studied with iron and the gut microbes.

Dr. Robert Pasciak, a urologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., has five tips on how to keep your urinary system healthy:  

  1. Don’t wait too long to use the restroom. Withholding urination can put added pressure on your bladder which can lead to infection.
  2. Pay close attention to hygiene. Avoid harsh soaps and make sure to shower thoroughly after swimming in pools or lakes.
  3. Avoid foods that may irritate the bladder. If you have an overactive or sensitive bladder, avoid carbonated and caffeinated drinks and alcoholic drinks.
  4. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day in order to keep a normal urinary pattern. This works to remove any waste products in your system.
  5. Ask the right questions. If you suspect something is wrong, talk to your doctor.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.