10th Dec 2019

UTI: Now we know why stubborn infection keeps coming back

10th Dec 2019

Curated by Santhni Subramaniam

Why does Urinary Tract Infection keep combing back despite treatment? Researchers think the culprit might be the delinquent bacteria hiding inside our bladder cells.

In 10 seconds? Many women and children suffering from Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) have a recurrent episode every 4-6 months, even after receiving proper antibiotic treatment. Scientists think they have discovered a reason. (Read the science)

3D image depicting urinary-tract infection

So, what is the reason? Several studies using lab mice have shown that bacteria known as Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) invade superficial umbrella cells that line and insulate the bladder. They turn these cells into "safe havens" where they rapidly multiply and form bacterial communities (IBCs). (Read more)

Why can't we deal with bacteria? Because they are a tricky lot. When bacteria invade our cells, the communities they create are hard to reach by standard antibiotics, and they can be resistant to antibiotics too. Also, since they are hidden, they are protected from the patient's immune system. Additionally, the standard test used in hospitals to detect UTI fails to confirm their presence, leaving patients clueless about why they are getting recurrent infections. (Read the study paper)

So, can science provide an answer? Well, although studies in mice  give us insights, they are not always valid for humans. So, scientists have developed a complex 3D model grown from cells that truthfully simulates the infected human bladder. This model can even tolerate urine, which is quite difficult to achieve but necessary to understand the complex mechanism of our bladder. Such models are important for the discovery of new treatment. Also, they reduce the need to use lab animals. (Using Nanoantibiotics as UTI treatment)

Great! And how exactly does it work? This model can be used to test the effectiveness of current and new treatments. As I mentioned, the bacteria are hard to reach by standard antibiotics. Hence, there is a need for innovative strategies to deliver drugs inside the cell. The team has developed a bubble-like delivery system using nanoparticles to penetrate the cells and hit the bacteria in their hiding spot. In other words, they have found a way to improve antibiotic efficacy, which is very important in the era of growing antibiotic resistance. (Read more)

And where do we go from here? There is still a lot of work needed to further understand these infections and improve on current treatments. We have made a step towards breaking the cycle of women and children being prescribed a variety of antibiotics for months on end. With the development of smart models and improved antibiotics delivery, we hope to reduce the suffering of many UTI patients worldwide. (Novel strategies for UTI prevention and treatment)

The challenge of bacterial infections

Antimicrobial resistance is an alarming issue worldwide costing billions of dollars for national healthcare systems.

There is a desperate need for a better understanding of bacterial interaction with the body, to design alternative treatments as well as detecting infections.

Novel treatments can take a longer time to reach the market due to long and expensive regulatory hurdles.

So, to overcome this, many researchers are aiming to transform already available drugs and boost their effectiveness for patients.

(Psst, Santhni distilled 9 research papers to save you 1044.3 min)

Curated by

Santhni Subramaniam

PhD Candidate at The University of South Australia. Santhni's research focuses on novel drug delivery strategies for antibiotics against recalcitrant Infections.

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