Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are amongst the most common infections worldwide, and are becoming increasingly difficult to treat. In addition to the acceleration of classic antimicrobial resistance, recurrence after initial resolution is common. Our clinical experience is that chronically infected patients sometimes fail to respond to antibiotics predicted to be effective from culture-based sensitivity testing, while antibiotics predicted to be unsuitable can succeed. We hypothesized that the bladder environment could lead to differential bacterial gene expression, resulting in differences in minimum inhibitory concentration (MICs) compared with standard culture.

Here, using strains of evolved in the lab to be resistant to amoxicillin–clavulanic acid, we present data that MICs differ depending on which media the assay is performed in (M9, ISO, LB, human urine), as well as in urine-containing supernatant enriched from urothelial organoids. Next, we examined the behaviour of patient-derived , one of the main causative agents of chronic UTIs in the elderly. We are in the process of evaluating the MIC of first-line UTI antibiotics using growth media supplemented with urine, to more closely mimic the native uropathogen environment. Moreover, we are characterising the resistance genes expressed in those differing environments using next generation sequencing technology and comparing the results with those obtained from bacteria grown on standard diagnostic media.

Our work demonstrates the danger of extrapolating biological behaviour from artificial culture substrates and may lead to better diagnostic tests and treatments for chronic UTI.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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