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Could Adaptable Bacteria Cause Repeat UTIs?

Women suffering from recurring urinary tract infections may carry a particularly hearty strain of E. coli bacteria that flourishes in both the gut and the bladder, and can migrate back and forth despite repeated treatments, a small new study finds.

Doctors believe that urinary tract infections are often caused by E. coli migrating from the gut to the urinary tract, according to study background information. But they have assumed that when the bacteria moves to the bladder, it loses its ability to flourish in the gastrointestinal tract.

Now the research published May 8 in the journal Science Translational Medicine suggests some strains of E. coli may be more adaptable than previously thought.

While studying a group of women who suffered from repeated episodes of urinary tract infection, the multinational team of researchers discovered strains of E. coli that can live and flourish in both the gut and the bladder.

"The idea was the ability to effectively colonize the urinary tract was inversely correlated to the ability to effectively colonize the [gastrointestinal] tract," said Michael Hibbing, a microbiologist with Washington University in St. Louis and study co-author. "We found that dichotomy wasn't necessarily true. We found one strain of E. coli that is very good at colonizing both the GI tract and the urinary tract."
 
 

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