Some species of bacteria are stripping off their outer layers in an attempt to evade antibiotics and survive. It’s a reality that could explain why some infections keep coming back. According to researchers at Newcastle University in the UK, the bacteria are “undressing” and removing their cell walls – the very part of them that some antibiotics target. The cell walls of some bacteria are made from sugars and amino acids. While they give the bacteria shape and protection, these walls provide a weak spot that can be exploited by antibiotics. Penicillin, the first antibiotic to be discovered and the most widely used in the world, works by disrupting the cell wall and causing the bacteria to burst. The study, which is published in the journal Nature Communications, found that bacteria associated with recurring urinary tract infections in elderly patients slipped out of their cell walls to avoid the effect of the antibiotics. It’s the first time that research has shown bacteria using this method to survive antibiotic treatment and while not all survive – most get taken care of by the body’s immune system - it does offer some explanation as to why certain infections come back again and again. The discovery could pave the way for new treatments to be developed, including combination therapies that target both the bacteria’s cell wall and inner workings.
Cranberry juice has long been used by people to provide relief from and even treat urine infections. But new draft guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) say there is not enough good evidence, despite people’s experiences, to recommend it as a treatment. Even though some studies have concluded that cranberry juice may be beneficial for people with urine infections, NICE says people should drink plenty of water or fluids and take painkillers instead. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria, which is why some people may be prescribed antibiotics to treat them, but these drugs are not always necessary. NICE says that when antibiotics are required, the shortest course possible should be prescribed to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance. Prof Mark Baker, director for the centre of guidelines at NICE, said: "We recognise that the majority of UTIs will require antibiotic treatment, but we need to be smarter with our use of these medicines. "Our new guidance will help healthcare professionals to optimise their use of antibiotics. "This will help to protect these vital medicines and ensure that no one experiences side effects from a treatment they do not need."