Finally, a long-term solution for UTIs

Over 60s women suffer from urinary tract infections more than any other demographic, as the tissues of the urethra and bladder become thinner and drier with age as well as after menopause or a hysterectomy. They can often be frequent and painful, although they are common. UTIs are also known for their resistance to antibiotics, which is why they can reoccur even after you think you’ve combated it.

But there might be a light in the tunnel thanks to a new study that has shown a new drug that could increase the bladder’s resilience. In the study published in PLOS Pathogens, it has been found that an experimental drug that stabilises the human immune defence protein HIF-1α can protect human bladder cells and mice against a major UTI pathogen, and it might provide a therapeutic alternative or complement to antibiotic treatment.

HIF-1α is known to play a key role in modulating the innate (non-specific) immune response, which is the body’s first line of defence against intruding pathogens. However, HIF-1α is relatively short-lived so to increase HIF-1α levels, researchers have developed drugs that delay its break-down.

Previously, HIF-1α stabilisers have been used in clinical development for treatment of anemia, and in this study Victor Nizet, from the University of California, San Diego, USA, and colleagues explored the potential use of these drugs as “innate immune boosters” against uropathogenic E.coli (UPEC) bacteria that are a major cause of UTIs.

Amazingly, the scientists found that the treatment worked on human urinary tract cells. Further testing on mice showed that administration of HIF-1α stabilisers directly into the bladder protected the mice against UPEC infection of the bladder and kidney. They also found that invasion of bladder cells, a critical early step in the infection process, was reduced in treated mice compared to untreated ones.

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Finally, the researchers examined whether treatment with the new drug would be beneficial even against an established UTI. To do this, they infected mice with UPEC first and then administered the drugs into the bladder six hours later. The treated mice had a more than 10-fold reduced rate of bladder colonisation, demonstrating that HIF-1α stabilisation is beneficial even after the initial infection. This is great news for those who often have UTIs.

The next steps include testing HIF-1α stabilisers in a clinical trial setting in humans, and making versions of the drug that can be taken orally and reach the urinary tract.


Tell us below: Do you often have UTIs? How do you usually treat them? Would you try this treatment in a trial?