Host restriction of <i>Escherichia coli</i> recurrent urinary tract infection occurs in a bacterial strain-specific manner

by Valerie P. O’Brien, Denise A. Dorsey, Thomas J. Hannan, Scott J. Hultgren

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are extremely common and can be highly recurrent, with 1–2% of women suffering from six or more recurrent episodes per year. The high incidence of recurrent UTI, including recurrent infections caused by the same bacterial strain that caused the first infection, suggests that at least some women do not mount a protective adaptive immune response to UTI. Here we observed in a mouse model of cystitis (bladder infection) that infection with two different clinical uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) isolates, UTI89 or CFT073, resulted in different kinetics of bacterial clearance and different susceptibility to same-strain recurrent infection. UTI89 and CFT073 both caused infections that persisted for at least two weeks in similar proportions of mice, but whereas UTI89 infections could persist indefinitely, CFT073 infections began to clear two weeks after inoculation and were uniformly cleared within eight weeks. Mice with a history of CFT073 cystitis lasting four weeks were protected against recurrent CFT073 infection after antibiotic therapy, but were not protected against challenge with UTI89. In contrast, mice with a history of UTI89 cystitis lasting four weeks were highly susceptible to challenge infection with either strain after antibiotic treatment. We found that depletion of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets impaired the ability of the host to clear CFT073 infections and rendered mice with a history of CFT073 cystitis lasting four weeks susceptible to recurrent CFT073 cystitis upon challenge. Our findings demonstrate the complex interplay between the broad genetic diversity of UPEC and the host innate and adaptive immune responses during UTI. A better understanding of these host-pathogen interactions is urgently needed for effective drug and vaccine development in the era of increasing antibiotic resistance.

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