Reaching the End of the Line: Urinary Tract Infections

Microbiol Spectr. 2019 May;7(3). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.BAI-0014-2019.


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) cause a substantial health care burden. UTIs (i) are most often caused by uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), (ii) primarily affect otherwise healthy females (50% of women will have a UTI), (iii) are associated with significant morbidity and economic impact, (iv) can become chronic, and (v) are highly recurrent. A history of UTI is a significant risk factor for a recurrent UTI (rUTI). In otherwise healthy women, an acute UTI leads to a 25 to 50% chance of rUTI within months of the initial infection. Interestingly, rUTIs are commonly caused by the same strain of E. coli that led to the initial infection, arguing that there exist host-associated reservoirs, like the gastrointestinal tract and underlying bladder tissue, that can seed rUTIs. Additionally, catheter-associated UTIs (CAUTI), caused by Enterococcus and Staphylococcus as well as UPEC, represent a major health care concern. The host's response of depositing fibrinogen at the site of infection has been found to be critical to establishing CAUTI. The Drug Resistance Index, an evaluation of antibiotic resistance, indicates that UTIs have become increasingly difficult to treat since the mid-2000s. Thus, UTIs are a "canary in the coal mine," warning of the possibility of a return to the preantibiotic era, where some common infections are untreatable with available antibiotics. Numerous alternative strategies for both the prevention and treatment of UTIs are being pursued, with a focus on the development of vaccines and small-molecule inhibitors targeting virulence factors, in the hopes of reducing the burden of urogenital tract infections in an antibiotic-sparing manner.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Catheter-Related Infections / microbiology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Enterococcus / pathogenicity
  • Escherichia coli Infections / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Staphylococcus / pathogenicity
  • Urinary Bladder / microbiology
  • Urinary Tract / microbiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / microbiology*
  • Uropathogenic Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Uropathogenic Escherichia coli / pathogenicity*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents