Humans have known for centuries that copper is a potent weapon against infection. New research shows that the bacteria that cause serious urinary tract infections “know” this, too, and steal copper to prevent the metal from being used against them.
Blocking this thievery with a drug may significantly improve patients’ chances of fighting off infections, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine
in St. Louis. The findings appear online July 8 in Nature Chemical Biology
In the United States alone, annual treatment costs for urinary tract infections are estimated to run as high as $1.6 billion. Most urinary tract infections are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli).
“While some patients are able to clear these infections without issue, the infection persists in others or recurs despite antibiotic therapy,” says senior author Jeff Henderson, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology
. “In some cases, the infection spreads to the kidney or the blood and becomes life-threatening. We’ve been investigating what’s different about the bacteria that cause these more troublesome infections