If you are alive and in possession of a vagina, chances are you will have a urinary tract infection at some point in your life.
“If you have a run-of-the-mill urinary tract infection, you tend to get a lower-grade antibiotic,” Paul Garofolo, the co-founder and CEO of pharmaceutical company Locus Biosciences, told The Daily Beast.
One study of 29 women with recurrent UTIs found that patients were worried about “creating a monster of a UTI infection that will be resistant to anything” and having other drug-resistant infections in the future.
A number of factors we’re still investigating play a role in how susceptible someone is to recurrent UTIs, including the composition of the microorganisms in the urogenital tract, hormone levels, antibiotic resistance, and the body’s own immune system.
“The fact that UTIs are very common, along with the fact that we don’t always do testing in a laboratory to determine which antibiotics are best suited, means it’s a good recipe for creating resistance,” Lisa Bebell, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, told The Daily Beast.
Broad-spectrum antibiotics that are used as second- and third-line defenses can have ripple effects on the body’s microbiome, and even lead to increased susceptibility for UTIs in the future by setting the stage for a vaginal yeast infection.
The Texas researchers studied the microbiomes and urine of 75 postmenopausal women with varying histories of UTIs, to figure out whether recurrent UTIs correlated with irregular microbiomes, and to identify causes for the imbalance.
They found that the urogenital microbiomes of women with a history of recurrent UTIs had higher levels of bacterial groups that are commonly found during an active infection, versus women without a history of UTIs.
On the other hand, women without a recurrent UTI history had higher levels of estrogen that were associated with more Lactobacillus species—probiotic strains of bacteria that may protect against infection.
There’s another reason why using antibiotics to treat UTIs is like putting a square peg in a round hole, said Greg German, a medical microbiologist at the University of Toronto.
“A urinary tract infection can be fairly scary” for the millions of older adults who seek care for them each year.
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