Urinary tract infections are a major problem for women. Millions of women have to visit the doctor each year for antibiotics to treat these infections. And, as often happens with living, evolving organisms like bacteria, doctors are seeing strains of infection that are becoming resistant to the common antibiotics.
More than 80% of urinary tract infections come from E. coli bacteria. If there were a vaccine that could prevent women from getting these infections it would be a massive health and cost benefit. So of course researchers are looking for a vaccine.
The hunt for vaccines almost always takes place in lab animals first. Researchers at the University of Michigan found last year that a vaccine they tried on mice – and that made them immune to urinary tract infections – seemed, initially, to act the same way in human cell samples. This raised a great deal of hope for a human vaccine.
Further studies the U of M group has done this year, however, show that there are differences in the appearance of how E. coli develop in humans and mice, and therefore differences in how they can be affected by a vaccine.
This isn’t entirely bad news. It does provide a further key that the researchers need to look for differences. It’s a further piece of the puzzle. It tells us that there won’t be a shortcut by using the mouse vaccine, but it also gives us a clue for how to keep looking. This is the way that science works.