Many women suffer through countless urinary tract infections (UTIs), but a new study in mice offers hope that a vaccine could one day bring their nightmares to an end.
“Although several vaccines against UTIs have been investigated in clinical trials, they have so far had limited success,” said senior study author Soman Abraham, a professor of pathology, immunology, and molecular genetics & microbiology at Duke University’s School of Medicine, in Durham, North Carolina.
“Our study describes the potential for a highly effective bladder vaccine that can not only eradicate residual bladder bacteria, but also prevent future infections,” Abraham said.
These painful infections have a high recurrence rate, and up to half of all women will have a UTI at least once in their lifetime, the researchers noted.
But Abraham and his Duke colleagues came up with a vaccination strategy that programs the immune system to fight off the E. coli bacteria that cause UTIs.
Their study was published online March 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to study author Jianxuan Wu, “The new vaccine strategy attempts to ‘teach’ the bladder to more effectively fight off the attacking bacteria. By administering the vaccine directly into the bladder where the residual bacteria harbor, the highly effective vaccine antigen, in combination with an adjuvant known to boost the recruitment of bacterial clearing cells, performed better than traditional intramuscular vaccination.”
Bladder-vaccinated mice were able to resist E. coli and eliminate all residual bladder bacteria, which suggests that where the vaccine is injected could be an important factor in its effectiveness, the researchers said in a Duke news release. However, research in animals does not always pan out in humans.
Still, Abraham said, “We are encouraged by these findings, and since the individual components of the vaccine have previously been shown to be safe for human use, undertaking clinical studies to validate these findings could be done relatively quickly.”