Cranberry Juice Fights Urinary Tract Infection at a Molecular Level
Researchers have discovered how cranberry juice fights urinary tract infection (UTI) at a molecular level. Urinary tract infections can cause severe illness and hospitalization especially among elders and immunocompromised individuals. Some bacteria that cause urinary tract infections have become resistant to antibiotics and can lead to death even in healthy young individuals. For the first time scientists have seen how molecular forces enable cranberry juice in the fight against a common bacteria that causes bladder infections.
Most urinary tract infections come from E.coli a bacterium present in the intestinal tract, and also in popular swimming grounds. Women are especially vulnerable because of the proximity of the bacteria to the urinary meatus or opening to the urinary tract. Elders who have poor bowel control can have "accidents" that spread E.coli infection to the bladder. Cranberry juice is shown to prevent E.coli from adhering to the bladder - the juice causes the bacteria to let go by inducing hook-like structures called fimbriae to curl up and detach from bladder cells.
Terri Camesano, professor of chemical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute explains, "This is not a clinical study—it's a mechanical study that shows us the direct forces that can lead to infection." The scientists measured the force need to pull E.coli bacteria away from human bladder cells, finding that without cranberry juice the urinary tract infection causing bacteria adhered strongly to the cells. Adding cranberry juice weakened the bacteria so that urine flow - a normal defense against bladder infections - eliminated the infection causing germs.
Past research has shown that cranberry juice is beneficial for preventing UTI's. Now scientists better understand the molecular mechanism of how cranberries and cranberry juice fight bladder infections.
Finding ways to prevent urinary tract infections has clinical applications. In the hospital urinary catheters are a frequent cause of infection. The research team says drugs could be developed to engineer medical devices to prevent bacteria from hanging around. The findings also mean new antibiotics could be developed.
Bacteria have to stick to cells to cause a urinary tract infection. The new study shows that cranberry juice works at a molecular level to prevent urinary tract infections by reducing the ability of bacteria to adhere to cells. Cranberry juice prevented small hair-like projections in the E.coli bacteria, known as fimbriae, from latching onto human urinary tract cells.