Host-pathogen Interactions in Urinary Tract Infection

Nat Rev Urol. 2010 Aug;7(8):430-41. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2010.101. Epub 2010 Jul 20.


The urinary tract is a common site of bacterial infections; nearly half of all women experience at least one urinary tract infection (UTI) during their lifetime. These infections are classified based on the condition of the host. Uncomplicated infections affect otherwise healthy individuals and are most commonly caused by uropathogenic Escherichia coli, whereas complicated infections affect patients with underlying difficulties, such as a urinary tract abnormality or catheterization, and are commonly caused by species such as Proteus mirabilis. Virulence and fitness factors produced by both pathogens include fimbriae, toxins, flagella, iron acquisition systems, and proteins that function in immune evasion. Additional factors that contribute to infection include the formation of intracellular bacterial communities by E. coli and the production of urease by P. mirabilis, which can result in urinary stone formation. Innate immune responses are induced or mediated by pattern recognition receptors, antimicrobial peptides, and neutrophils. The adaptive immune response to UTI is less well understood. Host factors TLR4 and CXCR1 are implicated in disease outcome and susceptibility, respectively. Low levels of TLR4 are associated with asymptomatic bacteriuria while low levels of CXCR1 are associated with increased incidence of acute pyelonephritis. Current research is focused on the identification of additional virulence factors and therapeutic or prophylactic targets that might be used in the generation of vaccines against both uropathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / immunology
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Proteus mirabilis / immunology
  • Proteus mirabilis / isolation & purification
  • Proteus mirabilis / pathogenicity*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / genetics
  • Urinary Tract Infections / immunology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / microbiology*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / therapy