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Estrogen bolsters urinary tract infection defense in menopausal women

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Estrogen supplements may help menopausal women ward off recurrent urinary tract infections, researchers recently reported.

Estrogen supplements may help menopausal women ward off recurrent urinary tract infections, researchers recently reported.

Menopausal women have an increased risk of recurrent UTIs, which have been associated with low estrogen levels, researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden wrote online in Science Translational Medicine (June 19, 2013). Estrogen stimulates the production of the body’s own antibiotic and strengthens the cells in the urinary tract, they reported.

In the current study, the authors treated post-menopausal women with estrogen for 14 days, then analyzed cells excreted in the urine. They found that estrogen acts on the epithelium in a way that the gaps between the cells lining the bladder lumen are healed.

"During menopause, women have low levels of estrogen, and therefore also low levels of antimicrobial peptides as well as a damaged lining of the lumen in the urinary tract,” said senior author Annelie Brauner, MD, PhD. "This will give the bacteria opportunity to reach the underlying tissue, where they can hide and stay until they are triggered to cause a new infection. By treating postmenopausal women locally with estrogen, the cells lining the bladder are strengthened and the body’s own defense against infection is improved, making women better suited to fight infections."

 

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