Urinary tract infections are both very common and potentially very dangerous. More than half of all Australian women will suffer from a UTI in their lifetime, and around one in three women will develop an infection that requires treatment with antibiotics before the age of 24.
About 80 percent of UTIs are caused by uropathogenic e coli (UPEC), which is increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Death due to antimicrobial resistance related to E. coli is the leading cause of bacterial death worldwide.
To aid the search for new treatment options, researchers at the University of Sydney (UTS) are using state-of-the-art microscopy to track how these bacteria spread and multiply.
Dr Bill Soderstrom and Associate Professor Ian Duggin from the Australian Institute for Microbiology and Infection at UTS said their latest research examined the shape-changing behavior of UPECs. During the UTI infection cycle, bacteria form spaghetti-like filaments hundreds of times their normal length before reverting to their original form.
study, which is published in nature communicationused a human bladder cell infection model to generate the filaments, and observe their reversal back to rod shape.
“While we don’t fully understand why they undergo this extreme lifestyle make-over, we do know that they must go back to their original size before new bladder cells can re-infect themselves,” Soderstrom said.
Söderström said, “We used advanced microscopy to follow the two major cell division proteins and their localization dynamics during reversal. We found that the general rules of regulation of cell division in bacteria do not fully apply to filaments. “
“By giving the first clues to how the reversal of filamentation is controlled during infection, we can lay the foundation for identifying new ways to combat UTIs.”
Associate Professor Duggins said the long filaments formed by the bacteria appear to break off infected human cells, through a previously unknown mechanism called infection-related filamentation (IRF).
“The devastating explosion of these bacteria from bladder cells probably contributes to the widespread damage and pain experienced during UTIs,” Associate Professor Duggins said.
“Our goal is to identify why and how bacteria make this remarkable achievement, in the hope of enabling alternative treatments or prevention.”
facts about urinary tract infections
About 50-60 percent of women have a UTI in their lifetime.
One in four women who have had a UTI will experience another within 12 months.
About 1 in 3 women will develop a UTI that requires treatment with antibiotics before the age of 24
Increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria often requires more than one course of antibiotics
Urinary tract infections that occur in a hospital (for example, through a catheter) result in an additional 380,000 hospital beds a year
Complicated UTIs have a mortality rate as high as one in three
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