Background: Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CaUTIs) are the most common hospital-acquired infections worldwide and are frequently polymicrobial. The urease-positive species Proteus mirabilis and Providencia stuartii are two of the leading causes of CaUTIs and commonly co-colonize catheters. These species can also cause urolithiasis and bacteremia. However, the impact of coinfection on these complications has never been addressed experimentally.
Methods: A mouse model of ascending UTI was utilized to determine the impact of coinfection on colonization, urolithiasis, and bacteremia. Mice were infected with P. mirabilis or a urease mutant, P. stuartii, or a combination of these organisms. In vitro experiments were conducted to assess growth dynamics and impact of co-culture on urease activity.
Results: Coinfection resulted in a bacterial load similar to monospecies infection but with increased incidence of urolithiasis and bacteremia. These complications were urease-dependent as they were not observed during coinfection with a P. mirabilis urease mutant. Furthermore, total urease activity was increased during co-culture.
Conclusions: We conclude that P. mirabilis and P. stuartii coinfection promotes urolithiasis and bacteremia in a urease-dependent manner, at least in part through synergistic induction of urease activity. These data provide a possible explanation for the high incidence of bacteremia resulting from polymicrobial CaUTI.
Keywords: Proteus mirabilis; Providencia stuartii; UTI; bacteremia; coinfection; urease; urolithiasis.