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Doctors working on vaccine for UTIs

April 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There are vaccines for chicken pox, measles and mumps. Now, doctors are working on the very first vaccine to prevent painful urinary tract infections."It's like a knife-twisting pain. You're unable to even do the dishes," said UTI patient Sharon DeBarnado.

Sharon DeBarnado knows the pain that comes with urinary tract infections. Bacteria invades the kidney, bladder and urinary tract.

"I constantly went every 10 days having a bladder infection and urinary tract infection," said DeBarnado.

Fifty-three percent of women and 14 percent of men will get a UTI at least once. That adds up to 1.3 million emergency room visits and 250,000 hospitalizations each year. The only treatment is antibiotics.

"We're beginning to see increasing resistance to these antibiotics and that's of particular concern," said Harry Mobley, Ph.D., University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Dr. Mobley and his team are working on a vaccine to prevent the infections, a $2.5 billion a year problem in the U.S.

"A spray up the nose, a couple doses of this would protect the bladder," said Dr. Mobley.

When the lining of the bladder gets infected, layers of cells peel off.

"Bacteria get into this normally sterile site," said Dr. Mobley.

After five years of study in mice, researchers found three antigens that protect the mice against bacteria. The next step is to try out the vaccine in humans.

"It would be fabulous," said DeBarnado.

More tests are needed before there's relief for people like DeBarnado, but she's hopeful a simple spray could one day solve her painful problem.

Urinary tract infections are usually treated with antibiotics and typically clear up within a few days of treatment. For severe cases, hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics may be necessary.