New Treatment Could Keep UTI’s From Reoccurring

Researchers found a way to reprogram immune responses that could keep urinary tract infections from coming back.



(Matej Kastelic /

For many people, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are infrequent occurrences that are usually treated with a course of antibiotics, by drinking plenty of fluids including cranberry juice, a popular folk remedy. But for some people, it's not that easy.

A number of people have recurring infections. That's because the bacteria that can cause UTIs are surprisingly persistent according to Medical News Today. Sometimes the treatments don't completely get rid of the infection or some people, mostly women, are very prone to suffer from them. About 1-in-4 women will have reoccurring infections. But now, researchers at Duke Health of the Duke University medical school in Durham, North Carolina are working on a vaccine that could keep UTIs from coming back.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found a way to reprogram the body's immune response to fight off the bacteria that is responsible for UTIs, according to a news release from Duke Health. The tests that were done on mice who had injections directly in their bladders, cleared E.coli  bacterial infections.

“Although several vaccines against UTIs have been investigated in clinical trials, they have so far had limited success,” said Soman Abraham, Ph.D., Grace Kerby professor of Pathology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics & Microbiology in the School of Medicine and senior author on the paper.

“There are currently no effective UTI vaccines available for use in the US in spite of the high prevalence of bladder infections,” Abraham said. “Our study describes the potential for a highly effective bladder vaccine that can not only eradicate residual bladder bacteria, but also prevent future infections.”

The reprogramming is needed because in previous research, the Duke team found that the bacteria wasn't completely eliminated because the immune system sends out a larger quantity of Th2 cells that repair damaged tissue than Th1 cells that work on the bacteria according to New Atlas. Therefore, the researchers looked for a way to boost the Th1 immune response.

One group of the mice in the study received the new vaccine through a catheter directly in their bladders and the second group received an injection. The ones who received it directly in the bladder were able to produce more Th1 cells.

The study showed that where you administer the vaccine is an important part of its effectiveness. Lead author Jianxuan Wu, Ph.D., who recently earned his doctorate from the department of immunology at Duke said in the press release: “The new vaccine strategy attempts to ‘teach’ the bladder to more effectively fight off the attacking bacteria.

“By administering the vaccine directly into the bladder where the residual bacteria harbor, the highly effective vaccine antigen, in combination with an adjuvant known to boost the recruitment of bacterial clearing cells, performed better than traditional intramuscular vaccination.”

While the testing was done on mice, the researchers are confident that  since all the individual components of the vaccine have been previously shown to be safe for human use, clinical trials of the vaccine in humans could be done relatively quickly. For people who suffer from these painful infections, relief may be just around the corner.

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