New vaccination strategy could better help the body fight off UTIs

March 2, 2021
New vaccination strategy could better help the body fight off UTIs

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can be painful, pesky and persistent. While oral drugs may help, bacteria responsible for the UTI – which primarily afflicts women – never fully clears from the bladder, and may cause chronic infection. Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina, US, have developed a new vaccination strategy that they think could re-program the body to fight off the bacteria that causes UTIs.

“There are currently no effective UTI vaccines available for use in the US in spite of the high prevalence of bladder infections,” said Dr. Soman Abraham, Grace Kerby Distinguished Professor of Pathology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, in the Duke University School of Medicine.

“Although several vaccines against UTIs have been investigated in clinical trials, they have so far had limited success. 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 strategy, which the team showed to be effective in mouse models, involves re-programming an inadequate immune response identified just last year: in mouse bladders infected with E. coli bacteria, the immune system dispatches repair cells to heal the damaged tissue, while simultaneously  launching very few warrior cells to fight off the attacker. This meansthe bacteria never fully clears, and lives on in the bladder to attack again.

Read: Natural remedies for lower Urinary Tract Infections

But by administering a vaccine directly into the bladder, the highly effective vaccine antigen, in combination with an adjuvant known to boost the recruitment of bacterial clearing cells, effectively fought off infecting E. coli and eliminated all residual bladder bacteria. The scientists concluded that the site of administration could be an important consideration in determining the effectiveness of a vaccine.

“We are encouraged by these findings, and since the individual components of the vaccine have previously been shown to be safe for human use, undertaking clinical studies to validate these findings could be done relatively quickly,” Abraham said.

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