New Research Reveals How Immune System Responds to Urinary Tract Infections

Jennifer Nessel, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, February 12th, 2020
Australian researchers have analyzed how the immune system responds to urinary tract infections (UTIs), and the direct link this response has to magnifying bladder pain. Understanding how nerves in the bladder transmit different sensations to the brain could potentially help limit bladder dysfunction in patients with overactive bladders, according to study authors.
The study was conducted by researchers at Flinders University in South Australia in collaboration with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Adelaide, and Griffith University on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

“We believe that chronic pain and bladder dysfunction are a failure of these nerves to reset after inflammation, so by understanding how these nerves function with a UTI and what causes them to become more sensitive over time, we can develop effective treatments,” said Luke Grundy, MD, research fellow for Clinical Pharmacology and head of Bladder Research at Flinders, in a prepared statement.  
UTIs are painful and usually short lived; however, low levels of infection can be found long after they are thought to have cleared. Research suggests that this process could be an unknown but leading cause of chronic bladder dysfunction.
“This is important, as many people diagnosed with an overactive bladder, a disorder than is currently considered to have no specific cause, have been shown to have persistent low levels of UTI. This may lead to enhanced patient diagnosis and alternative treatment options for those suffering with an overactive bladder,” said Grundy.
With a number of antibiotic resistant UTI’s growing globally each year, many individuals can no longer be treated with common antibiotics, despite the fact that 1 in every 2 women will develop a UTI in their lifetime. Grundy says this study provides new information into how UTI causes hypersensitivity of the nerves that carry sensation from the bladder to the brain, resulting in adverse events such as urinary frequency, urgency, and pelvic or suprapubic pain.
“Our study provides a new understanding of why some [patients with overactive bladder] do not respond to traditional medications and continue to suffer in silence and opens the door for the development of more specific and effective treatments in the future,” concluded Grundy.


New Hope to Reduce Bladder Pain [news release]. Flinders University website. Published February 3, 2020. Accessed February 3, 2020.

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