The Chemistry Behind UTIs

Interesting research that shows how urine can help a particular yeast (Candida glabrata) stick to the urinary tract may provide new ways to treat or prevent prevent urinary tract infections (UTI). Their discovery also uncovered an unexpected role for some proteins known to help yeast live longer.

Candida glabrata uses sirtuins, a family of proteins, to block access to genes that would otherwise help the yeast stick. Sirtuins, which also help regulate the organism's lifespan, require niacin to work. However, because urine has only tiny amounts of niacin, according to researchers, sirtuins may not work, exposing genes that allow yeast to make the proteins to help it stick to cells in the urinary tract.

This is certainly important because Candida glabrata and the related Candida albicans cause infections in blood and mucosal tissues such as the urinary tract and vagina. In fact, Candida glabrata is the second leading cause -- behind Candida albicans -- of yeast infections in people with urinary catheters.

Typically, there's enough niacin in blood to keep the yeast's adhesion-promoting genes turned off. However, in urine and perhaps other host environments, there is such a limited amount of niacin these genes are turned on, allowing organisms to stick to host cells, according to the lead researcher. Not all yeast would be affected by the lack of niacin in the same way, however, because some varieties can make niacin themselves, and others don't use sirtuins to regulate their adhesion-promoting genes.

Speaking of how to better treat UTIs, a recent study I posted showed how blueberries have compounds similar to those of cranberries.

EurekAlert March 30, 2005

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