Should we be afraid of UTI superbugs?
If you’ve had a urinary tract infection at some point, then you probably know that it is one of the most common bacterial infections out there. In fact, UTI accounts for around 8 to 10 million medical consultations and hospital visits in the United States alone. However, the fact that it’s widespread and common doesn’t make it any less troublesome.
In most cases, this ailment is fairly easy to treat, as long as it has not yet progressed to a full-blown kidney infection (also called pyelonephritis). Typically, your physician might prescribe an antibiotic regimen or a single-dose antibiotic for UTI. The latter is given mostly to women who are suffering from lower UTIs, such as cystitis, which is often associated with sexual activities.
Most of the time, this treatment course works well, especially if you combine them with natural home remedies for UTI. Making healthy lifestyle changes and familiarizing yourself with prevention strategies is also a must, especially if your UTI keeps coming back.
In some cases, however, antibiotics may not be effective against this infection.
Are UTI-causing bacteria becoming tougher?
If your antibiotics for UTI aren’t doing their job, you might be infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Across the world, antibiotic resistance is on the rise, which is bad news for those suffering from UTIs. Some strains of Escherichia coli, which accounts for 80% of UTIs, are unfortunately among the bacteria that are growing tougher against antibiotics.
Just last 2016, a gene called MCR, which increases bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics, was found in the United States for the first time. The person carrying it was a woman who had UTI. It turned out that her case was rare, special, and challenging to treat, as the E. coli bacteria that invaded her urinary tract carried 15 different genes that confer resistance to antibiotics. One of the elements found in the E. coli strains is the largely feared mcr-1 gene.
The MCR is notorious among those in the medical field because it can thwart colistin, which is one of the last antibiotics that can fight a broad family of bacteria that have otherwise acquired resistance to various drugs. Colistin works mainly because it’s a highly toxic substance made during the earliest phases of antibiotic development. It’s seldom prescribed, if at all, because of its adverse side effects. And thus, because it’s rarely used by humans, many bacteria haven’t adapted to it.
How exactly did MCR end up in UTIs?
Colistin is widely used in agriculture, and that’s how it was able to enter the human body. That’s also how E. coli, which is commonly found in humans’ feces, developed familiarity with colistin. Thus, over time, they were able to generate resistant properties against colistin. And of course, it doesn’t help that the anus’ proximity to the urethra makes it easy for the E. coli bacteria to reach the urinary tract.
But here’s the more worrisome bit: Out of 8 million UTI cases, 800,000 will be antibiotic-resistant. Despite this swelling number, however, a lot of people dismiss UTIs as a minor infection. In reality, drug-resistant bacteria could lead to more alarming health conditions. If a UTI isn’t treated effectively, it could climb up the upper urinary tract and cause a kidney infection or blood poisoning. At this point, the condition becomes life-threatening and much harder to eliminate.
How is this treated?
While your chances of getting infected by MCR-containing bacteria are pretty slim, it pays to be aware of the proper treatment and prevention methods. If the usual antibiotics for UTI aren’t working, your doctor will likely conduct plenty of examinations to determine the right antibiotics for you.
However, they might resort to broad-spectrum antibiotics, meaning those that can wipe out even the good bacteria from your body. As this can weaken your immune system, be sure to consult your doctor on how you can prepare for its negative effects.
In addition, be mindful of your hygiene practices, lifestyle habits, diet, and physical activity. All these can help you maintain a strong body that can ward off infections, including UTIs.