Whole-Cell Vaccines Could Fight Urinary Tract Infections, Especially Reoccurring


Investigators have developed an encapsulated and immobilized individual bacterium cell in crystalline polymeric matric that not only kills the bacterium but preserves and stabilizes the dead cell against high temperature, moisture, and organic solvents. The method utilizes metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).

Whole-cell vaccines could be used to fight urinary tract infections (UTI), results from The University of Texas at Dallas showed.

Investigators found that in mice, this method produced substantially enhanced antibody production and higher survival rates compared to standard whole-cell vaccine preparation methods.

“Vaccines using whole-cell dead bacteria haven’t succeeded because the cells typically don’t last long enough in the body to produce long-term, durable immune responses,” Jeremiah Gassensmith, PhD, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said in the statement. “That’s the reason for our MOF antigen depot: It allows an intact, dead pathogen to exist in tissue longer, as if it were an infection, in order to trigger a full-scale immune system response.”

Using vaccines against pathogenic bacteria can help to build immunity in the body but is inherently difficult because bacteria is often larger and more complect than viruses. Therefore, whole-cell vaccines are typically preferred because that is normally how the body is presented with bacteria.

In the study, a strain of Escherichia coli was used because there are no vaccines against any pathogenic strain of this bacterium, which causes approximately 80% of all community acquired UTIs.

Gassensmith said that almost all of the mice survived with the vaccine after a lethal injection of bacteria, and the result was much better than traditional vaccine approaches. The vaccine has not been tested on humans at this time.

“Vaccination as a therapeutic route for recurrent UTIs is being explored because antibiotics aren’t working anymore,” Nicole De Nisco, PhD, assistant professor of biological sciences at The University of Texas at Dallas, said in the statement. “Patients are losing their bladders to save their lives because the bacteria cannot be killed by antibiotics or because of an extreme allergy to antibiotics, which is more common in the older population than people may realize.”

De Nisco said that recurrent UTIs are regarded as a women’s health issue, although the issue is not widely discussed. She added that sometimes UTIs persist elsewhere, even if cleared from the bladder, and can become resistant to antibiotic use.

Investigators are working on applying this approach to other organisms that are reoccurring after entering the tissue.

The study was published in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Nano and is part of an effort to decrease serious issues of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


Scientists develop promising vaccine method against recurrent UTI. EurekAlert. News release. November 18, 2021. Accessed November 19, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/935503

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