Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that amyloids, which are behind the onset of Alzheimer's disease, also play a prominent role in urinary tract infections.
The new discovery may help develop new drugs to fend off infections.
Some of the infectious bacteria use amyloids to attach to host cells and to build biofilms, which are bacterial communities bound together in a film that helps resist antibiotics and immune attacks.
During the study, the research team altered potential UTI-fighting compounds originally selected for their ability to block bacteria's ability to make amyloids and form biofilms.
But when they brought the compounds back to UTI research after the neurology studies, they found the changes had also unexpectedly made them more effective UTI treatments.
"Thanks to this research, we have evidence for the first time that we may be able to use a single compound to impair both the bacteria's ability to start infections and their ability to defend themselves in biofilms," Nature magazine quoted senior author Scott J. Hultgren, Ph.D., the Helen L. Stoever Professor of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University as saying.
"UTIs occur mainly in women. We think it's likely that women who are troubled by recurrent bouts of UTIs are actually being plagued by a single persistent infection that hides in biofilms to elude treatment.," said co-lead author Jerome S. Pinkner, laboratory manager for Hultgren.
The findings were reported online in Nature Chemical Biology.