FRIDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Many women suffer from chronic urinary tract infections, but now a new treatment using a probiotic may provide lasting relief for some, a preliminary trial indicates.
Urinary tract infections frequently recur and affect 2 percent to 3 percent of all women. The depletion of vaginal Lactobacillus crispatus, a type of bacteria, is linked with these painful infections, suggesting that replenishing the bacteria may be helpful.
"The problem with urinary tract infection we are facing is antibiotic resistance," said researcher Dr. Thomas M. Hooton, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "So there is a push to develop non-antibiotic methods to prevent and treat infections," he added.
Women who have recurring urinary tract infection have alterations in their vaginal bacteria. "There tends to be a reduction in Lactobacillus crispatus. That's the predominant organism in the healthy vagina," Hooton explained.
It has been suggested that lack of L. crispatus is a risk factor for urinary tract infection, because it allows harmful bacteria to grow, he added.
"So if you could replace the Lactobacillus in women with recurrent urinary tract infections, you might normalize the vagina and prevent infections," Hooton said. "That's the theory of using a probiotic -- that you are trying to normalize, or at least change, the vaginal fauna."
And that's exactly what this new treatment does, he noted.
The report is published in the April 15 online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
For the phase 2 trial, researchers treated 100 women with recurrent urinary tract infections with antibiotics and then randomly assigned them to a L. crispatus vaginal suppository probiotic, or an inactive placebo.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that when given have a health benefit. Treatment with the probiotic or placebo lasted five straight days and then once a week for 10 weeks.
The researchers found after treatment that seven women who received the probiotic had at least one urinary tract infection, compared with 13 of the women who received the placebo.
Although these results are promising they are not powerful enough to provide a definitive conclusion, Hooton pointed out. "The hope is that more definitive studies can be done," he said.
Hooton noted that the probiotic used in the study is not available yet and it will take a lot more testing before it is. Given that the probiotic is still in development there is no idea yet of what it would cost, assuming it is approved, he added.
Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that "we are using a lot of antibiotics these days and we are getting a lot more antibiotic resistance, so if we can find a new way to help prevent urinary tract infections that's non-antibiotic, it's really helpful."
In addition, Wu thinks this new treatment is a good idea. L. crispatus is essential for a healthy vagina, because it prevents bad bacteria from growing, she said.
Another expert, Dr. Yvonne K.P. Koch, an assistant professor of urology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that "this study holds some promise as to how we can help patients with these chronic recurrent infections."
For more information on urinary tract infection, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Thomas M. Hooton, M.D., professor, clinical medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Yvonne K.P. Koch, M.D., assistant professor, urology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Jennifer Wu, M.D., obstetrician-gynecologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; April 15, 2011, Clinical Infectious Diseases, online
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