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Microbiology

23.2 Bacterial Infections of the Urinary System

Microbiology 23.2 Bacterial Infections of the Urinary System
  1. Preface
  2. 1 An Invisible World
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 What Our Ancestors Knew
    3. 1.2 A Systematic Approach
    4. 1.3 Types of Microorganisms
    5. Summary
    6. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  3. 2 How We See the Invisible World
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 The Properties of Light
    3. 2.2 Peering Into the Invisible World
    4. 2.3 Instruments of Microscopy
    5. 2.4 Staining Microscopic Specimens
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  4. 3 The Cell
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 Spontaneous Generation
    3. 3.2 Foundations of Modern Cell Theory
    4. 3.3 Unique Characteristics of Prokaryotic Cells
    5. 3.4 Unique Characteristics of Eukaryotic Cells
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  5. 4 Prokaryotic Diversity
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 Prokaryote Habitats, Relationships, and Microbiomes
    3. 4.2 Proteobacteria
    4. 4.3 Nonproteobacteria Gram-Negative Bacteria and Phototrophic Bacteria
    5. 4.4 Gram-Positive Bacteria
    6. 4.5 Deeply Branching Bacteria
    7. 4.6 Archaea
    8. Summary
    9. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  6. 5 The Eukaryotes of Microbiology
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Unicellular Eukaryotic Parasites
    3. 5.2 Parasitic Helminths
    4. 5.3 Fungi
    5. 5.4 Algae
    6. 5.5 Lichens
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  7. 6 Acellular Pathogens
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 Viruses
    3. 6.2 The Viral Life Cycle
    4. 6.3 Isolation, Culture, and Identification of Viruses
    5. 6.4 Viroids, Virusoids, and Prions
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  8. 7 Microbial Biochemistry
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 Organic Molecules
    3. 7.2 Carbohydrates
    4. 7.3 Lipids
    5. 7.4 Proteins
    6. 7.5 Using Biochemistry to Identify Microorganisms
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Matching
      4. Fill in the Blank
      5. Short Answer
      6. Critical Thinking
  9. 8 Microbial Metabolism
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 Energy, Matter, and Enzymes
    3. 8.2 Catabolism of Carbohydrates
    4. 8.3 Cellular Respiration
    5. 8.4 Fermentation
    6. 8.5 Catabolism of Lipids and Proteins
    7. 8.6 Photosynthesis
    8. 8.7 Biogeochemical Cycles
    9. Summary
    10. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Matching
      4. Fill in the Blank
      5. Short Answer
      6. Critical Thinking
  10. 9 Microbial Growth
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 How Microbes Grow
    3. 9.2 Oxygen Requirements for Microbial Growth
    4. 9.3 The Effects of pH on Microbial Growth
    5. 9.4 Temperature and Microbial Growth
    6. 9.5 Other Environmental Conditions that Affect Growth
    7. 9.6 Media Used for Bacterial Growth
    8. Summary
    9. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  11. 10 Biochemistry of the Genome
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 Using Microbiology to Discover the Secrets of Life
    3. 10.2 Structure and Function of DNA
    4. 10.3 Structure and Function of RNA
    5. 10.4 Structure and Function of Cellular Genomes
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Matching
      4. Fill in the Blank
      5. Short Answer
      6. Critical Thinking
  12. 11 Mechanisms of Microbial Genetics
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 The Functions of Genetic Material
    3. 11.2 DNA Replication
    4. 11.3 RNA Transcription
    5. 11.4 Protein Synthesis (Translation)
    6. 11.5 Mutations
    7. 11.6 How Asexual Prokaryotes Achieve Genetic Diversity
    8. 11.7 Gene Regulation: Operon Theory
    9. Summary
    10. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  13. 12 Modern Applications of Microbial Genetics
    1. Introduction
    2. 12.1 Microbes and the Tools of Genetic Engineering
    3. 12.2 Visualizing and Characterizing DNA, RNA, and Protein
    4. 12.3 Whole Genome Methods and Pharmaceutical Applications of Genetic Engineering
    5. 12.4 Gene Therapy
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  14. 13 Control of Microbial Growth
    1. Introduction
    2. 13.1 Controlling Microbial Growth
    3. 13.2 Using Physical Methods to Control Microorganisms
    4. 13.3 Using Chemicals to Control Microorganisms
    5. 13.4 Testing the Effectiveness of Antiseptics and Disinfectants
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  15. 14 Antimicrobial Drugs
    1. Introduction
    2. 14.1 History of Chemotherapy and Antimicrobial Discovery
    3. 14.2 Fundamentals of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
    4. 14.3 Mechanisms of Antibacterial Drugs
    5. 14.4 Mechanisms of Other Antimicrobial Drugs
    6. 14.5 Drug Resistance
    7. 14.6 Testing the Effectiveness of Antimicrobials
    8. 14.7 Current Strategies for Antimicrobial Discovery
    9. Summary
    10. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. True/False
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  16. 15 Microbial Mechanisms of Pathogenicity
    1. Introduction
    2. 15.1 Characteristics of Infectious Disease
    3. 15.2 How Pathogens Cause Disease
    4. 15.3 Virulence Factors of Bacterial and Viral Pathogens
    5. 15.4 Virulence Factors of Eukaryotic Pathogens
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  17. 16 Disease and Epidemiology
    1. Introduction
    2. 16.1 The Language of Epidemiologists
    3. 16.2 Tracking Infectious Diseases
    4. 16.3 Modes of Disease Transmission
    5. 16.4 Global Public Health
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  18. 17 Innate Nonspecific Host Defenses
    1. Introduction
    2. 17.1 Physical Defenses
    3. 17.2 Chemical Defenses
    4. 17.3 Cellular Defenses
    5. 17.4 Pathogen Recognition and Phagocytosis
    6. 17.5 Inflammation and Fever
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  19. 18 Adaptive Specific Host Defenses
    1. Introduction
    2. 18.1 Overview of Specific Adaptive Immunity
    3. 18.2 Major Histocompatibility Complexes and Antigen-Presenting Cells
    4. 18.3 T Lymphocytes and Cellular Immunity
    5. 18.4 B Lymphocytes and Humoral Immunity
    6. 18.5 Vaccines
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  20. 19 Diseases of the Immune System
    1. Introduction
    2. 19.1 Hypersensitivities
    3. 19.2 Autoimmune Disorders
    4. 19.3 Organ Transplantation and Rejection
    5. 19.4 Immunodeficiency
    6. 19.5 Cancer Immunobiology and Immunotherapy
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  21. 20 Laboratory Analysis of the Immune Response
    1. Introduction
    2. 20.1 Polyclonal and Monoclonal Antibody Production
    3. 20.2 Detecting Antigen-Antibody Complexes
    4. 20.3 Agglutination Assays
    5. 20.4 EIAs and ELISAs
    6. 20.5 Fluorescent Antibody Techniques
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  22. 21 Skin and Eye Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 21.1 Anatomy and Normal Microbiota of the Skin and Eyes
    3. 21.2 Bacterial Infections of the Skin and Eyes
    4. 21.3 Viral Infections of the Skin and Eyes
    5. 21.4 Mycoses of the Skin
    6. 21.5 Protozoan and Helminthic Infections of the Skin and Eyes
    7. Summary
    8. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  23. 22 Respiratory System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 22.1 Anatomy and Normal Microbiota of the Respiratory Tract
    3. 22.2 Bacterial Infections of the Respiratory Tract
    4. 22.3 Viral Infections of the Respiratory Tract
    5. 22.4 Respiratory Mycoses
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  24. 23 Urogenital System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 23.1 Anatomy and Normal Microbiota of the Urogenital Tract
    3. 23.2 Bacterial Infections of the Urinary System
    4. 23.3 Bacterial Infections of the Reproductive System
    5. 23.4 Viral Infections of the Reproductive System
    6. 23.5 Fungal Infections of the Reproductive System
    7. 23.6 Protozoan Infections of the Urogenital System
    8. Summary
    9. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  25. 24 Digestive System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 24.1 Anatomy and Normal Microbiota of the Digestive System
    3. 24.2 Microbial Diseases of the Mouth and Oral Cavity
    4. 24.3 Bacterial Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract
    5. 24.4 Viral Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract
    6. 24.5 Protozoan Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract
    7. 24.6 Helminthic Infections of the Gastrointestinal Tract
    8. Summary
    9. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  26. 25 Circulatory and Lymphatic System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 25.1 Anatomy of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems
    3. 25.2 Bacterial Infections of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems
    4. 25.3 Viral Infections of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems
    5. 25.4 Parasitic Infections of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Fill in the Blank
      3. Short Answer
      4. Critical Thinking
  27. 26 Nervous System Infections
    1. Introduction
    2. 26.1 Anatomy of the Nervous System
    3. 26.2 Bacterial Diseases of the Nervous System
    4. 26.3 Acellular Diseases of the Nervous System
    5. 26.4 Fungal and Parasitic Diseases of the Nervous System
    6. Summary
    7. Review Questions
      1. Multiple Choice
      2. Matching
      3. Fill in the Blank
      4. Short Answer
      5. Critical Thinking
  28. A | Fundamentals of Physics and Chemistry Important to Microbiology
  29. B | Mathematical Basics
  30. C | Metabolic Pathways
  31. D | Taxonomy of Clinically Relevant Microorganisms
  32. E | Glossary
  33. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
    17. Chapter 17
    18. Chapter 18
    19. Chapter 19
    20. Chapter 20
    21. Chapter 21
    22. Chapter 22
    23. Chapter 23
    24. Chapter 24
    25. Chapter 25
    26. Chapter 26
  34. Index

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the most common bacterial pathogens that can cause urinary tract infections
  • Compare the major characteristics of specific bacterial diseases affecting the urinary tract

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) include infections of the urethra, bladder, and kidneys, and are common causes of urethritis, cystitis, pyelonephritis, and glomerulonephritis. Bacteria are the most common causes of UTIs, especially in the urethra and bladder.

Cystitis

Cystitis is most often caused by a bacterial infection of the bladder, but it can also occur as a reaction to certain treatments or irritants such as radiation treatment, hygiene sprays, or spermicides. Common symptoms of cystitis include dysuria (urination accompanied by burning, discomfort, or pain), pyuria (pus in the urine), hematuria (blood in the urine), and bladder pain.

In women, bladder infections are more common because the urethra is short and located in close proximity to the anus, which can result in infections of the urinary tract by fecal bacteria. Bladder infections are also more common in the elderly because the bladder may not empty fully, causing urine to pool; the elderly may also have weaker immune systems that make them more vulnerable to infection. Conditions such as prostatitis in men or kidney stones in both men and women can impact proper drainage of urine and increase risk of bladder infections. Catheterization can also increase the risk of bladder infection (see Case in Point: Cystitis in the Elderly).

Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli (most commonly), Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumoniae cause most bladder infections. Gram-positive pathogens associated with cystitis include the coagulase-negative Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Enterococcus faecalis, and Streptococcus agalactiae. Routine manual urinalysis using a urine dipstick or test strip can be used for rapid screening of infection. These test strips (Figure 23.5) are either held in a urine stream or dipped in a sample of urine to test for the presence of nitrites, leukocyte esterase, protein, or blood that can indicate an active bacterial infection. The presence of nitrite may indicate the presence of E. coli or K. pneumonia; these bacteria produce nitrate reductase, which converts nitrate to nitrite. The leukocyte esterase (LE) test detects the presence of neutrophils as an indication of active infection.

Low specificity, sensitivity, or both, associated with these rapid screening tests require that care be taken in interpretation of results and in their use in diagnosis of urinary tract infections. Therefore, positive LE or nitrite results are followed by a urine culture to confirm a bladder infection. Urine culture is generally accomplished using blood agar and MacConkey agar, and it is important to culture a clean catch of urine to minimize contamination with normal microbiota of the penis and vagina. A clean catch of urine is accomplished by first washing the labia and urethral opening of female patients or the penis of male patients. The patient then releases a small amount of urine into the toilet bowl before stopping the flow of urine. Finally, the patient resumes urination, this time filling the container used to collect the specimen.

Bacterial cystitis is commonly treated with fluoroquinolones, nitrofurantoin, cephalosporins, or a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole. Pain medications may provide relief for patients with dysuria. Treatment is more difficult in elderly patients, who experience a higher rate of complications such as sepsis and kidney infections.

A thin strip with 4 colored regions. Each region matches a set of colors on a container. Each different color indicates a different measurement for a particular test.
Figure 23.5 A urine dipstick is compared against a color key to determine levels of various chemicals, proteins, or cells in the urine. Abnormal levels may indicate an infection. (credit: modification of work by Suzanne Wakim)

Case in Point

Cystitis in the Elderly

Robert, an 81-year-old widower with early onset Alzheimer’s, was recently moved to a nursing home because he was having difficulty living on his own. Within a few weeks of his arrival, he developed a fever and began to experience pain associated with urination. He also began having episodes of confusion and delirium. The doctor assigned to examine Robert read his file and noticed that Robert was treated for prostatitis several years earlier. When he asked Robert how often he had been urinating, Robert explained that he had been trying not to drink too much so that he didn’t have to walk to the restroom.

All of this evidence suggests that Robert likely has a urinary tract infection. Robert’s age means that his immune system has probably begun to weaken, and his previous prostate condition may be making it difficult for him to empty his bladder. In addition, Robert’s avoidance of fluids has led to dehydration and infrequent urination, which may have allowed an infection to establish itself in his urinary tract. The fever and dysuria are common signs of a UTI in patients of all ages, and UTIs in elderly patients are often accompanied by a notable decline in mental function.

Physical challenges often discourage elderly individuals from urinating as frequently as they would otherwise. In addition, neurological conditions that disproportionately affect the elderly (e.g., Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease) may also reduce their ability to empty their bladders. Robert’s doctor noted that he was having difficulty navigating his new home and recommended that he be given more assistance and that his fluid intake be monitored. The doctor also took a urine sample and ordered a laboratory culture to confirm the identity of the causative agent.

  • Why is it important to identify the causative agent in a UTI?
  • Should the doctor prescribe a broad-spectrum or narrow-spectrum antibiotic to treat Robert’s UTI? Why?

Kidney Infections (Pyelonephritis and Glomerulonephritis)

Pyelonephritis, an inflammation of the kidney, can be caused by bacteria that have spread from other parts of the urinary tract (such as the bladder). In addition, pyelonephritis can develop from bacteria that travel through the bloodstream to the kidney. When the infection spreads from the lower urinary tract, the causative agents are typically fecal bacteria such as E. coli. Common signs and symptoms include back pain (due to the location of the kidneys), fever, and nausea or vomiting. Gross hematuria (visible blood in the urine) occurs in 30–40% of women but is rare in men.2 The infection can become serious, potentially leading to bacteremia and systemic effects that can become life-threatening. Scarring of the kidney can occur and persist after the infection has cleared, which may lead to dysfunction.

Diagnosis of pyelonephritis is made using microscopic examination of urine, culture of urine, testing for leukocyte esterase and nitrite levels, and examination of the urine for blood or protein. It is also important to use blood cultures to evaluate the spread of the pathogen into the bloodstream. Imaging of the kidneys may be performed in high-risk patients with diabetes or immunosuppression, the elderly, patients with previous renal damage, or to rule out an obstruction in the kidney. Pyelonephritis can be treated with either oral or intravenous antibiotics, including penicillins, cephalosporins, vancomycin, fluoroquinolones, carbapenems, and aminoglycosides.

Glomerulonephritis occurs when the glomeruli of the nephrons are damaged from inflammation. Whereas pyelonephritis is usually acute, glomerulonephritis may be acute or chronic. The most well-characterized mechanism of glomerulonephritis is the post-streptococcal sequelae associated with Streptococcus pyogenes throat and skin infections. Although S. pyogenes does not directly infect the glomeruli of the kidney, immune complexes that form in blood between S. pyogenes antigens and antibodies lodge in the capillary endothelial cell junctions of the glomeruli and trigger a damaging inflammatory response. Glomerulonephritis can also occur in patients with bacterial endocarditis (infection and inflammation of heart tissue); however, it is currently unknown whether glomerulonephritis associated with endocarditis is also immune-mediated.

Leptospirosis

Leptospira are generally harmless spirochetes that are commonly found in the soil. However, some pathogenic species can cause an infection called leptospirosis in the kidneys and other organs (Figure 23.6). Leptospirosis can produce fever, headache, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash with severe muscular pain. If the disease continues to progress, infection of the kidney, meninges, or liver may occur and may lead to organ failure or meningitis. When the kidney and liver become seriously infected, it is called Weil’s disease. Pulmonary hemorrhagic syndrome can also develop in the lungs, and jaundice may occur.

Leptospira spp. are found widely in animals such as dogs, horses, cattle, pigs, and rodents, and are excreted in their urine. Humans generally become infected by coming in contact with contaminated soil or water, often while swimming or during flooding; infection can also occur through contact with body fluids containing the bacteria. The bacteria may enter the body through mucous membranes, skin injuries, or by ingestion. The mechanism of pathogenicity is not well understood.

Leptospirosis is extremely rare in the United States, although it is endemic in Hawaii; 50% of all cases in the United States come from Hawaii.3 It is more common in tropical than in temperate climates, and individuals who work with animals or animal products are most at risk. The bacteria can also be cultivated in specialized media, with growth observed in broth in a few days to four weeks; however, diagnosis of leptospirosis is generally made using faster methods, such as detection of antibodies to Leptospira spp. in patient samples using serologic testing. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), slide agglutination, and indirect immunofluorescence tests may all be used for diagnosis. Treatment for leptospirosis involves broad-spectrum antibiotics such as penicillin and doxycycline. For more serious cases of leptospirosis, antibiotics may be given intravenously.

(a) Micrograph of many spiral shaped cells. (b) Higher magnification showing spiral shape more clearly.
Figure 23.6 (a) Dark field view of Leptospira sp. (b) A scanning electron micrograph of Leptospira interrogans, a pathogenic species, shows the distinctive spirochete morphology of this genus. (credit b: modification of work by Janice Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Check Your Understanding

  • What is the most common cause of a kidney infection?
  • What are the most common symptoms of a kidney infection?

Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU)

There are two main categories of bacterial urethritis: gonorrheal and nongonococcal. Gonorrheal urethritis is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is associated with gonorrhea, a common STI. This cause of urethritis will be discussed in Bacterial Infections of the Reproductive System. The term nongonococcal urethritis (NGU) refers to inflammation of the urethra that is unrelated to N. gonorrhoeae. In women, NGU is often asymptomatic. In men, NGU is typically a mild disease, but can lead to purulent discharge and dysuria. Because the symptoms are often mild or nonexistent, most infected individuals do not know that they are infected, yet they are carriers of the disease. Asymptomatic patients also have no reason to seek treatment, and although not common, untreated NGU can spread to the reproductive organs, causing pelvic inflammatory disease and salpingitis in women and epididymitis and prostatitis in men. Important bacterial pathogens that cause nongonococcal urethritis include Chlamydia trachomatis, Mycoplasma genitalium, Ureaplasma urealyticum, and Mycoplasma hominis.

C. trachomatis is a difficult-to-stain, gram-negative bacterium with an ovoid shape. An intracellular pathogen, C. trachomatis causes the most frequently reported STI in the United States, chlamydia. Although most persons infected with C. trachomatis are asymptomatic, some patients can present with NGU. C. trachomatis can also cause non-urogenital infections such as the ocular disease trachoma (see Bacterial Infections of the Skin and Eyes). The life cycle of C. trachomatis is illustrated in .

C. trachomatis has multiple possible virulence factors that are currently being studied to evaluate their roles in causing disease. These include polymorphic outer-membrane autotransporter proteins, stress response proteins, and type III secretion effectors. The type III secretion effectors have been identified in gram-negative pathogens, including C. trachomatis. This virulence factor is an assembly of more than 20 proteins that form what is called an injectisome for the transfer of other effector proteins that target the infected host cells. The outer-membrane autotransporter proteins are also an effective mechanism of delivering virulence factors involved in colonization, disease progression, and immune system evasion.

Other species associated with NGU include Mycoplasma genitalium, Ureaplasma urealyticum, and Mycoplasma hominis. These bacteria are commonly found in the normal microbiota of healthy individuals, who may acquire them during birth or through sexual contact, but they can sometimes cause infections leading to urethritis (in males and females) or vaginitis and cervicitis (in females).

M. genitalium is a more common cause of urethritis in most settings than N. gonorrhoeae, although it is less common than C. trachomatis. It is responsible for approximately 30% of recurrent or persistent infections, 20–25% of nonchlamydial NGU cases, and 15%–20% of NGU cases. M. genitalium attaches to epithelial cells and has substantial antigenic variation that helps it evade host immune responses. It has lipid-associated membrane proteins that are involved in causing inflammation.

Several possible virulence factors have been implicated in the pathogenesis of U. urealyticum (Figure 23.7). These include the ureaplasma proteins phospholipase A, phospholipase C, multiple banded antigen (MBA), urease, and immunoglobulin α protease. The phospholipases are virulence factors that damage the cytoplasmic membrane of target cells. The immunoglobulin α protease is an important defense against antibodies. It can generate hydrogen peroxide, which may adversely affect host cell membranes through the production of reactive oxygen species.

Treatments differ for gonorrheal and nongonococcal urethritis. However, N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis are often simultaneously present, which is an important consideration for treatment. NGU is most commonly treated using tetracyclines (such as doxycycline) and azithromycin; erythromycin is an alternative option. Tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones are most commonly used to treat U. urealyticum, but resistance to tetracyclines is becoming an increasing problem.4 While tetracyclines have been the treatment of choice for M. hominis, increasing resistance means that other options must be used. Clindamycin and fluoroquinolones are alternatives. M. genitalium is generally susceptible to doxycycline, azithromycin, and moxifloxacin. Like other mycoplasma, M. genitalium does not have a cell wall and therefore β-lactams (including penicillins and cephalosporins) are not effective treatments.

Micrograph showing  oddly (roughly round) shaped structures.
Figure 23.7 Ureaplasma urealyticum microcolonies (white arrows) on agar surface after anaerobic incubation, visualized using phase contrast microscopy (800×). The black arrow indicates cellular debris. (credit: modification of work by American Society for Microbiology)

Check Your Understanding

  • What are the three most common causes of urethritis?
  • What three members of the normal microbiota can cause urethritis?

Disease Profile

Bacterial Infections of the Urinary Tract

Urinary tract infections can cause inflammation of the urethra (urethritis), bladder (cystitis), and kidneys (pyelonephritis), and can sometimes spread to other body systems through the bloodstream. Figure 23.8 captures the most important features of various types of UTIs.

Table titled: Bacterial Infections of the Urinary Tract. Columns: Disease, Pathogen, Signs and Symptoms, Transmission, Diagnostic Tests, Antimicrobial Drugs. Disease - Cystitis; Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecalis, Streptococcus agalactiae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus saprophyticus, others; Dysuria, pyuria, hematuria, and bladder pain; most common in females due to the shorter urethra and abundant normal vaginal microbiota; Nontransmissible; opportunistic infections occur when fecal bacteria are introduced to urinary tract or when normal urination or immune function is impaired; Urine dipstick, urine culture for confirmation; Fluoroquinolones, nitrofurantoin, cephalosporins, trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole. Disease - Leptospirosis; Leptospira spp.; Fever, headache, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, muscular pain; in disseminated infections, may cause jaundice, pulmonary hemorrhaging, meningitis; From animals to humans via contact with urine or body fluids; PCR, ELISA, slide agglutination, indirect immunofluorescence; Doxycycline, amoxicillin, ampicillin, erythromycin, penicillin. Disease - Nongonococcal urethritis (NGU); Chlamydia trachomatis, Mycoplasma genitalium, Mycoplasma hominis, Ureaplasma urealyticum; Mild or asymptomatic; may cause purulent discharge and dysuria Transmitted sexually or from mother to neonate during birth; Urethral swabs and urine culture, PCR, NAAT; Azithromycin, doxycycline, erythromycin, fluoroquinolones. Disease Pyelonephritis, glomerulonephritis; E. coli, Proteus spp., Klebsiella spp., Streptococcus pyogenes, others; Back pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, blood in urine; possible scarring of the kidneys and impaired kidney function; severe infections may lead to sepsis and death; Nontransmissible; infection spreads to kidneys from urinary tract or through bloodstream; Urinalysis, urine culture, radioimaging of kidneys; Penicillins, cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, aminoglycosides, others
Figure 23.8

Footnotes

  • 2 Tibor Fulop. “Acute Pyelonephritis” Medscape, 2015. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/245559-overview.
  • 3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Leptospirosis.” 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/health_care_workers.
  • 4 Ken B Waites. “Ureaplasma Infection Medication.” Medscape, 2015. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/231470-medication.
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© Nov 1, 2016 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 license. The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.