Study Finds Bacteria in Female Bladders | Loyola Medicine
Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Study on Bacteria in Female Bladders Could Lead to Improved Treatment of UTI's

 
MAYWOOD, IL – Scientists and physicians at Loyola University Chicago and Loyola Medicine were the first to publish groundbreaking research that debunked the common belief that urine in healthy women is sterile.
 
Expanding on this finding, a new study published in Nature Communications has found that the bladder not only contains bacteria, but the microbes are similar to those found in the vagina. The new finding could lead to improved diagnostic tests and treatments for urinary tract infections and other urinary tract disorders.
 
Corresponding authors of the study are Loyola University Chicago microbiologist Alan J. Wolfe, PhD, and Trevor D. Lawley, PhD, of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom.
 
Researchers sequenced the genes of 149 bacterial strains from 77 women. While the microbiota (community of microorganisms) found in the bladder and vagina were similar, they were markedly distinct from the microbiota found in the gastrointestinal tract.
 
It's not surprising the microbiota of the bladder and vagina are similar, since the organs are connected by the urethra. It appears that bacteria travel between the bladder and the vagina, effectively creating one microbiota niche. Urination provides an obvious way for bacteria to travel from the bladder to the vagina. But it's a mystery how bacteria could travel from the vagina to the bladder, especially since most of the bacteria examined in the study lack features such as flagella (whip-like structures) or pili (grappling hooks) that would enable them to move.
 
For more than 60 years, medical students were taught that urine is sterile in healthy women and that bacteria were found in the bladder only when there were infections. A landmark 2012 Loyola study by Dr. Wolfe and colleagues overturned this medical dogma.
 
"Now that we know the bladder is not sterile, we have to reevaluate everything we thought we knew about the bladder, and that is what we are doing," Dr. Wolfe said.
 
The new study found that the microbial sharing between the vaginal and bladder microbiota includes pathogens such as E. coli and S. anginosus as well as beneficial bacteria such as L. iners and L. crispatus.
 
Researchers suggested that beneficial bacteria residing in both the bladder and vagina could provide protection against urinary infections. This insight "should alter the way we view the bacteria of the female pelvic floor both by enabling further research and by providing new diagnostic and treatment options for urinary tract infections, urgency urinary incontinence and other associated urinary tract disorders," researchers wrote.
 
The research, a collaboration between Loyola University Chicago and Wellcome Sanger Institute, involved a clinical microbiology laboratory and multiple scientific and medical disciplines, including microbiology, urogynecology and bioinformatics.
 
"This is the way good science is done," Dr. Wolfe said.
 
The study is titled "Culturing of female bladder bacteria reveals an interconnected urogenital microbiota." In addition to Drs. Wolfe and Lawley, other co-authors are Krystal Thomas-White, PhD, (first author), Michelle Van Kuiken, MD, Catherine Putonti, PhD, Evann E. Hilt, MS, and Travis K. Price, MS, of Loyola; and Samuel C. Forster, PhD, Nitin Kumar, PhD, and Mark D. Stares, PhD, of Wellcome Sanger Institute.
 

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Loyola Medicine is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC) in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH) in Melrose Park, MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from more than 1,772 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. The medical center campus is also home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. GMH is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments in a convenient community setting. Loyola Medicine is a member of Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems with 94 hospitals in 22 states.

About Trinity Health

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 93 hospitals, as well as 122 continuing care programs that include PACE, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $17.6 billion and assets of $23.4 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity Health employs about 131,000 colleagues, including 7,500 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity Health is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services — ranked by number of visits — in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs. For more information, visit www.trinity-health.org. You can also follow @TrinityHealthMI on Twitter.