Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Persistent Pee Problem

Insight into persistent bladder bacterial infection using an 'organ on a chip' model

11 September 2021

Persistent Pee Problem

Burning, painful peeing often means a UTI (urinary tract infection). UTIs are caused by uropathogenic E.coli (UPEC) bacteria. When UPEC float in your urine, they're washed away when you pee but when they form communities in your bladder cells, intracellular bacterial communities (IBCs), they're harder to deal with. Researchers investigate why, specifically looking at the effects of immune cells called neutrophils and antibiotics on IBCs using UPEC-infected 'bladder chips' — cells in a dish mimicking the interface between blood vessels and bladder cells, and urine flow. Live imaging and scanning electron microscopy (pictured) revealed neutrophils swarmed infection sites, releasing net-like bundles (the stringy fibres visible) to destroy bacteria (cylinders) but this didn’t affect IBCs. Antibiotic treatment killed IBCs slower than bacteria in the urine, if at all. And in between antibiotic doses, surviving IBCs grew and spread. This reveals how persistent urine infections may occur and a way to test treatments.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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