Urinary Uromodulin and Risk of Urinary Tract Infections: The Cardiovascular Health Study

Am J Kidney Dis. 2017 Jun;69(6):744-751. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2016.08.022. Epub 2016 Oct 28.


Background: Laboratory studies suggest that urinary uromodulin, the most common protein in the urine of healthy adults, may protect against urinary tract infection (UTI). Epidemiologic studies evaluating this relationship in humans are lacking.

Study design: Prospective longitudinal cohort study.

Setting & participants: 953 participants enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study.

Predictor: Uromodulin assayed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in spot urine samples.

Outcomes: Composite of outpatient UTI events or UTI-related hospitalizations and each of them individually identified using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes using negative binomial regression with robust standard errors adjusted for age, race, sex, body mass index, diabetes, estimated glomerular filtration rate, and urinary albumin and urinary creatinine excretion.

Results: Median uromodulin level was 25.9 (IQR, 17.3-38.9) μg/mL, mean age of participants was 78 years, 61% were women, and 15% were black. There were 331 outpatient UTI events and 87 UTI-related hospitalizations among 186 participants during a median 9.9 years of follow-up. Persons in the highest quartile (>38.93μg/mL) of uromodulin concentration had a significantly lower risk for the composite outcome (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.47; 95% CI, 0.29-0.79) compared with those in the lowest quartile (≤17.26μg/mL). This association remained significant for outpatient UTI events (highest vs lowest quartile even after excluding those with prior UTI: IRR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.23-0.77). The direction of association with UTI hospitalization was similar, but not statistically significant (IRR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.39-1.58).

Limitations: Use of ICD-9 codes to identify outcomes and lack of generalizability to younger populations.

Conclusions: High urinary uromodulin levels are associated with lower risk for UTI in older community-dwelling adults independent of traditional UTI risk factors. This finding supports prior laboratory data indicating a protective role of uromodulin against UTI. Further research is needed to understand if this may lead to new treatments to prevent or treat UTI.

Keywords: Tamm-Horsfall protein; Uromodulin (UMOD); bacterial infection; elderly; geriatric; hospitalization; urinary tract infection (UTI).

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Albuminuria / urine
  • Cohort Studies
  • Creatinine / urine
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protective Factors
  • Risk Factors
  • Urinary Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / urine*
  • Uromodulin / urine*


  • UMOD protein, human
  • Uromodulin
  • Creatinine