A widespread problem
Urinary tract and bladder infections are among the most prevalent bacterial infections and can be quite painful. Fifty percent of all women are confronted by these unpleasant infections at some point in their lives. The disorder is an especially severe problem when it becomes chronic - whereby some patients experience symptoms almost continually. The Escherichia coli bacterium is responsible for 80% of these urinary tract infections. Treatment with antibiotics is possible but does not preclude a recurrence of the infection. In addition to this, more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics. For these reasons, scientists have been busy seeking another solution.
Prevention is better than cure
Julie Bouckaert and her co-researchers, under the direction of Henri De Greve, have discovered a way to prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to the wall of the urinary tract, so that they can no longer cause infection. Because E. coli bacteria use very particular hair-like projections (called pili) to cling to tissues - the first stage of a potential inflammation - a drug that can prevent this attachment can also avert bladder and urinary tract inflammations.
Combating certain bonds
Bouckaert and De Greve have investigated the way in which the E. coli bacteria attach themselves. This attachment takes place by means of a reaction between the protein 'Adhesine FimH' on the tips of the pili and special receptor
Contact: Sooike Stoops
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology