Immunomodulation therapy offers new molecular strategies to treat UTI

Daniel S. C. Butler, Ines Ambite, Murphy Wan, Thi Hien Tran, Björn Wullt, Catharina Svanborg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Innovative solutions are needed for the treatment of bacterial infections, and a range of antibacterial molecules have been explored as alternatives to antibiotics. A different approach is to investigate the immune system of the host for new ways of making the antibacterial defence more efficient. However, the immune system has a dual role as protector and cause of disease: in addition to being protective, increasing evidence shows that innate immune responses can become excessive and cause acute symptoms and tissue pathology during infection. This role of innate immunity in disease suggests that the immune system should be targeted therapeutically, to inhibit over-reactivity. The ultimate goal is to develop therapies that selectively attenuate destructive immune response cascades, while augmenting the protective antimicrobial defence but such treatment options have remained underexplored, owing to the molecular proximity of the protective and destructive effects of the immune response. The concept of innate immunomodulation therapy has been developed successfully in urinary tract infections, based on detailed studies of innate immune activation and disease pathogenesis. Effective, disease-specific, immunomodulatory strategies have been developed by targeting specific immune response regulators including key transcription factors. In acute pyelonephritis, targeting interferon regulatory factor 7 using small interfering RNA or treatment with antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin was protective and, in acute cystitis, targeting overactive effector molecules such as IL-1β, MMP7, COX2, cAMP and the pain-sensing receptor NK1R has been successful in vivo. Furthermore, other UTI treatment strategies, such as inhibiting bacterial adhesion and vaccination, have also shown promise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-437
JournalNature Reviews Urology
Early online date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


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