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‘Life-changing’ UTI treatments backed by SMSR



Two research projects to treat urinary tract infection (UTI) in people with spinal cord injury (SCI) have been backed by £300,000 in funding. 

Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research (SMSR) has committed to fund the projects, which could have “life changing” implications for people living with SCI. 

The first project will see researchers from the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, undertake a three-year study of Uromone, a new vaccine which has been developed to prevent bladder infections.

Uromune is a spray used every day under the tongue for three months. Scientific trials from around the world have shown it to be effective at preventing water infections in people prone to frequent infections despite using all sorts of other treatments, but it has never been researched in people with SCI. 

To stop infections happening so frequently, patients may take a daily low dose antibiotic. 

However, bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, and the more antibiotics we use, the worse this problem becomes. Taking antibiotics can also give harmful side-effects, including diarrhoea, lung, and liver disease. 

Commenting on the upcoming project, Mr Bob Yang, consultant urologist at Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Uromune treatment could be life-changing and our team in Reading has already proven its effectiveness in many women with recurrent UTIs, yet it has never been formally tried in spinal cord injury patients.

“We hope to change that by comparing how effective it is at preventing bladder infections against a fake Uromune vaccine, using the most scientifically accurate type of research study. We are grateful to SMSR for providing the funding to make this study possible.”

The second project will see SMSR funds supporting a two-year international study led by University Hospital Basel, Switzerland, examining whether re-use of catheters affects rates of UTI in people with SCI.

People with SCI commonly use catheters to empty their bladder and the study will take advantage of natural variations in catheter use and re-use across the world to inform best practice with respect to UTI risk. 

The study will recruit participants from Switzerland, India, Canada and the UK and the findings are expected to have wide international implications. 

Derek Cutler, SMSR research manager, said: “After inviting applications from researchers as part of our annual grant call last September, and subsequent review by our Scientific Advisory Board, we are delighted to be funding these two projects. 

“UTIs are one of our priority areas and we hope that this cutting-edge research will start to make the misery of UTIs a thing of the past for people with SCI.

“People with SCI suffer with more bladder infections (urinary tract infections) than average, and the more complex mix of bladder bacteria in people with SCI makes them more difficult to treat.

“Unfortunately, even with the best treatment, severe infections can happen which in some cases may be life threatening.”

SMSR Ambassador, Jamie Polk, who lives with spinal cord injury, added: “It’s the little things that people don’t see that really affect us. It’s the pain, pressure sores, bladder infections, the things that we don’t want you to know about. It’s those things that make life difficult, not really the fact that we are in chairs.”

In January 2023, the charity launched a special tenth anniversary campaign to raise an additional £100,000 so that even more breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of secondary complications, including pressure ulcers, urinary tract infection, assistive technology, and neuropathic pain, can be made to improve quality of life for people living with spinal cord injury.