Though it is common in women, many men are also prone to infections of the urinary tract, especially older men. Originally, urologists were unsure as to why some people developed urinary tract infections (UTIs) more often than others. New research published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry finds that a person’s diet and the acidity of their urine play a significant role. Investigators at Washington University in St. Louis conducted the study. They wanted to look into the body’s own defenses against a UTI. First, researchers took healthy samples from participants. Lab cultured Escherichia coli (E-coli) bacteria were injected into each. This was to see how well a compound called antimicrobial protein siderocalin (SCN) within the urine could limit the growth of the bacteria. The body’s own cells release SCN in order to fight such infections. But previous research has noted that SCN activity is different in each person. Up until this point however, they had no idea why.
Researchers found that those who had higher urine acidity had more effective SCN activity. Experts have long known that highly acidic urine suppresses bacterial growth. But this study showed that less acidic urine activated SCN activity, perhaps to compensate. When gut bacteria digests certain food it produces molecules called aryl sulfates. These were found in higher concentration in those samples containing the least bacteria. Senior author Jonathan Henderson, MD, PhD, wrote in a press release that it was dietary compounds from plants which helped create aryl sulfates in significant amounts. So as always, clinicians and researchers alike remind us to eat our fruits and vegetables. Cranberry juice and other products related to the crimson orb have been shown to help fight such infections. Henderson said that identifying ways to strengthen the body’s own immune system may help fight infections. Someday a treatment developed from this research may even help eliminate antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Be sure to visit a doctor or urologist should you be beset by chronic UTIs. There are many reasons a person might be developing them.