It has long been believed that healthy women produce sterile urine, but a new study has debunked that idea. Groundbreaking new research from the physicians and scientists at Chicago’s Loyola University and Loyola Medicine shows that women’s bladders have a microbiome similar to that of the vagina.

These results can mean a great deal when it comes to diagnosing and treating urinary tract infections, interstitial cystitis and similar disorders more effectively.

microbiome, bladder microbiome, microscope, research

Overturning Medical Dogma

During this study, which involved 77 women, researchers sequenced the genes of 149 different bacterial strains.
They found that while the microorganism community (microbiota) in the vagina and bladder were similar, they were very different from those found in the women’s gastrointestinal tracts.

Since the urethra connects the bladder and vagina, it shouldn’t be surprising that the organs’ microbiota are similar.
Apparently bacteria travel between the two organs, although it’s still unclear as to how bacteria from the vagina makes its way into the bladder.
It makes sense that bacteria can make their way from the bladder to the vagina during urination, but said bacteria lack the whip or grappling structures required to haul themselves upwards into the bladder.

For the better part of the last century, med students have been inundated with the idea that healthy women produce sterile urine. They were taught that bacteria would only be found in the bladder when infection was present.

This dogma was turned on its ear in 2012, with a Loyola study headed by Dr. Wolfe.

He established that since it’s now known that the bladder isn’t sterile, everything we know about it needs to be reevaluated.

Microbial Sharing

This new study determined that there are both beneficial bacteria and pathogens being shared between the bladder and vaginal microbiota.

E. coli and S. anginosus were among the pathogens found, along with beneficial bacteria like L. crispatus and L. iners.

It’s possible that the beneficial bacteria provide a measure of protection when it comes to urinary tract infections and disorders. Researchers commented that this can (and should) alter how female pelvic floor bacteria is viewed. It can open doors to different and new types of diagnostic and treatment options for all manner of urinary and bladder issues.

As Dr. Wolfe said, “This is the way good science is done.”

References:

  1. Krystal Thomas-White, Samuel C. Forster, Nitin Kumar, Michelle Van Kuiken, Catherine Putonti, Mark D. Stares, Evann E. Hilt, Travis K. Price, Alan J. Wolfe, Trevor D. Lawley. Culturing of female bladder bacteria reveals an interconnected urogenital microbiotaNature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03968-5
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