Pain, burning, urgency — each of these symptoms will sound familiar if you’ve ever suffered from urinary tract infections. And most of us have.
In fact, every year 150 million people suffer from an infection of the urinary tract or bladder, commonly called a UTI. And a whopping 60 percent of women are diagnosed with a UTI sometime during their lifetime, with many suffering again and again.
And while the pain and symptoms of the infection themselves are bad enough, according to a new study, having a urinary tract infection could be a signal of far worse to come…
Toxin-induced DNA damage to bladder cells
Doctors say that approximately 80 percent (an overwhelming majority) of UTIs are caused by a bacteria known as Uropathogenic E. coli or UPEC. And now, a new study has shown that this bacteria is capable of producing a toxin known as colibactin, which has long been suspected of being involved in cancer.
The research, performed at the Université de Toulouse, analyzed urine samples from 223 patients with community-acquired UTIs. Out of those samples, they found that 55 of the patients (or close to 25 percent) showed evidence of colibactin synthesis.
Additionally, when the researchers isolated strains of the UPEC bacteria from these same patients, they found that the bacteria itself was producing that colibactin.
Now, here’s where it gets really scary…
In a mouse model of urinary tract infections, the team found that colibactin-producing bacteria were capable of producing extensive DNA damage in bladder cells.
Yup, DNA damage! That’s cancer folks.
As the researchers put it, their findings support the idea that UTIs may play a role in bladder cancer development.
And they conclude, “Our work suggests that there should be a more specific follow-up of patients regularly suffering from urinary tract infections, with a systematic search for colibactin markers in their urine, but also more proactive, by proposing therapeutic approaches aimed at modulating the composition of their intestinal microbiota, which represents the main reservoir of the E. coli bacteria involved in these urinary tract infections.”
A reservoir of E. coli bacteria
That last was a lot of scientific talk, but it came down to two very important points:
- If you live with regular UTIs, you need to ask your doctor about getting checked for colibactin in your urine to gauge your future cancer risk.
- Focusing on improving the balance of good bacteria in your gut is a must, since the researchers say that it’s the “main reservoir” for the E. coli (bad bacteria) that causes those UTIs.
So, how do you improve the balance of bacteria in your gut microbiome?
The answer is getting more probiotics and prebiotics in your diet.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that help to tip the balance and prebiotics are responsible for feeding them.
You can find each in supplement form or get them through your diet.
Probiotic sources include things like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and kombucha, while prebiotic-rich foods include garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and bananas.
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