Could antibiotics given to women to relieve UTIs actually be the source of the problem? According to researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, recurrent cystitis could be caused by a imbalance of the intestinal microbiota, itself caused by taking antibiotics. A vicious circle that affects many women: according to previous studies, up to 80% of women develop a urinary tract infection during their lifetime and a quarter of them have frequent recurrences.
Their studypublished on May 2 in the journal Nature Microbiology, shows that taking antibiotics eliminates pathogenic bacteria – most of the time E.Coli bacteria in the case of cystitis – from the bladder, but not those from the intestines. According to Scott Hultgren, one of the main researchers of the study, urinary tract infections often result from the “ascent” of these bacteria from the intestine to the urinary tract. This then causes repeated infections.
To arrive at their results, the researchers recruited 31 women between the ages of 18 and 45. Half of them (15) had a history of recurrent urinary tract infections, three or four per year, and the other 16 had none. All participants then provided the researchers with urine and blood samples at the start of the study, as well as monthly stool samples. In one year, 24 urinary tract infections occurredall in patients with a history of cystitis.
Cystitis is not due to poor hygiene
And strangely, it was not the presence of the E.coli bacteria that made the difference between the two groups of women, but rather the composition of their intestinal microbiota. Indeed, the results of the study showed that patients with recurrent cystitis showed a decrease in the diversity of healthy intestinal microbial species.
“Our study clearly demonstrates that antibiotics do not prevent future infections or eliminate the strains responsible for UTIs, and they may even make recurrence more likely by keeping the microbiome in a disrupted state.“, said Professor Colin Worby, co-author of the study.
The researchers point out theimportance of finding alternatives to antibiotics and claim that urinary tract infections are far from being a hygiene problem. “It is frustrating for women who come to the doctor after several recurrences, and the doctor, who is usually a man, gives them advice on hygieneconcludes Professor Hultgren. It is not necessarily poor hygiene that is the cause. The problem lies in the disease itself, in this connection between the intestine and the bladder and the levels of inflammation.”
Please note: antibiotics are still the best treatment for urinary tract infections, and prevent them from turning into more serious infections or affecting the kidneys.
- Longitudinal multi-omics analyzes link gut microbiome dysbiosis with recurrent urinary tract infections in women, Nature MicrobiologyMay 2, 2022
- Recurrent UTIs linked to gut microbiome, chronic inflammation, Washington University in St. LouisMay 2, 2022
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