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Could Adaptable Bacteria Cause Repeat UTIs?

Study of 4 women found E. coli that 'migrated' and thrived
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This opens the possibility that treating recurrent urinary tract infections may be more complex than previously thought, because bacteria causing the infections can move freely between the bladder and the gut, the study authors concluded.

"This is a nice high-quality piece of research that is really going to help us broaden the ideas we have about how women get and carry urinary tract infections," said Dr. Linda Brubaker, a urogynecologist and dean of the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. She was not involved with the new study.

"It opens the possibility that bacteria interact with each other, and depending on how the bacteria interact may determine whether a woman gets a single or recurring urinary tract infection," she said. "The solution is probably not going to be more antibiotics, but a deeper understanding of a specific woman's risk based on the bacteria that live in her bladder or her bowel."

Another expert discussed implications of the new findings.

By better understanding the bacterial environments of the gut and bladder, doctors will be able to craft cunning treatments for suffering women, said Dr. Dee Fenner, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and urology at the University of Michigan School of Medicine.

"I think this will open up new treatment analysis. We'll start looking at [urinary tract infections] in a much different way," Fenner said, suggesting researchers may be able to clear up recurring urinary tract infections through the use of more targeted antibiotics or by even transplanting bacteria into the gut to try and crowd out the bad E. coli with a healthier strain.

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