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Urinary Tract Infection

Next-Generation UTI Treatment

University of Michigan Medical School researchers have identified bacterial genes that cause the urinary tract infections (UTIs) to spread. The discovery points the way to a potential new target for treating UTIs, which are a global public health concern mostly affecting women. UTIs lead to lost work time, emergency room visits, and health care spending of $3.5 billion in the United States.

The research findings reveal the specific genes expressed by Escherichia coli, the bacteria that most often causes UTIs in otherwise healthy people. The study was published in December 2014 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A release from the university quotes senior study author Harry T. Mobley, Ph.D. as saying, “The bacterium is becoming resistant to currently available antibiotics, making it imperative to develop new treatment and prevention strategies. The next logical step is to identify and develop therapies that selectively block these UTI-specific genes.”

In the study of 42 women, 7.7 percent had infections that were resistant to ciprofloxacin and 15.3 percent did not respond to trimethoprim/ sulfamethoxazole, two antibiotics commonly used for treatment.

The U-M team used genomic screening tools to take a deeper look at the mechanisms for infection. Rather than the expected virulence factor, the newly discovered E. coli-specific genes helped protect the bacterial species from the toxic effect of metal ions the body uses to fight infection.

Attacking this function, and other mechanisms that promote survival of the bacteria in the urinary tract, may be a strategy for new microbial agents, the authors say.

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