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Women's Health

Recurrent UTIs: Hope For A Cure

Scientists may be edging closer to a permanent cure for recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Researchers led by microbiologists from the University of Utah have shown the efficacy of a compound called chitosan when it’s used in combination with antibiotics. Chitosan is already approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for pharmaceutical and agricultural uses.

The investigators said that chitosan helps the bladder eliminate “reservoir” populations of bacteria that live deep within the bladder and could potentially cause recurrent infections. Their study was conducted using a mouse model, and if the effectiveness of chitosan can be confirmed in humans, it could eventually become an additional treatment for recurrent UTIs.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS One.

To destroy reservoir populations, the researchers infused mouse bladders with chitosan for 20 minutes, during which time the compound worked to exfoliate large cells lining the surface of the bladders. The exfoliation of cells did not harm the deeper layers of the mouse bladders but caused dormant reservoirs of UPEC to move toward the surface of the bladders, making them susceptible to antibiotics.

 “Antibiotics don’t do a good job of getting rid of reservoir populations,” said Matthew Blango, Ph.D., a U of U postdoctoral researcher and first author on the study “But when augmented with chitosan, there was a significant reduction in the level of bacteria in mouse bladders.”

The researchers followed up the chitosan by giving the mice a one-week course of fluoroquinolones, an antibiotic commonly used to treat UTIs. A week later, Blango and his colleagues found the reservoir populations of the bacteria were gone for the most part.

The researchers cautioned against using the chitosan before its usefulness is proved in humans.

UTIs are responsible for nearly 10 million health care office visits, 1.5 million hospitalizations and $1 billion in costs annually in the United States, according to the National Kidney Foundation. At least one in every five women will get one or more UTIs in her lifetime.

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