Cranberry products have a reputation for fighting urinary tract infections. But is this reputation deserved? Image: FreeDigitalPhotos net
An increased urge to urinate. A burning sensation when you do. These are two of the signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI), an incredibly unpleasant condition that can seem to come out of nowhere. Anyone can get a UTI, but among adults they are about 50 times more common in females than in males. Certain microorganisms cause these infections, often when bacteria from feces are introduced into the urinary tract. Although symptoms often clear up without medical intervention, it is very important to seek treatment for a persistent UTI because the infection could spread and become much more serious. (If you are or have been sexually active, it is also important to make sure you don’t actually have a sexually transmitted infection.)
Cranberry products – either as juice (sweetened, unsweetened, or blended with other fruit juices) or capsules – are considered by many to be an effective home remedy for UTIs. While cranberries are a well-known and accessible treatment, the evidence for their efficacy is not very strong. Why, then, are they such a popular treatment? It could be due simply to the placebo effect, an amazing phenomenon in which our expectations help shape our experiences. It could be that symptoms often clear up on their own, but we attribute our improvement to whatever remedies we happened to be trying at the time. It could be that drinking extra fluids (e.g., cranberry juice) helps flush the bacteria from our bodies as we urinate more. Or, it’s possible that cranberries do help clear up UTIs, but we just don’t have solid evidence yet. Continue reading
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Tagged antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, antibiotics, bacteria, Cochrane Collaboration, cranberries, cranberry, cranberry capsules, cranberry juice, E. coli, Escherichia coli, fimbriae, folk remedies, folk remedy, home remedies, home remedy, immune response, immune system, inflammation, pili, pilus, placebo, placebo effect, randomized clinical trial, rUTIs, UPEC, urinary tract infection, urinary tract infections, urine, uropathogenic E. coli, UTI, UTIs
Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria species that causes gonorrhea, is pictured here in a photograph taken with a scanning electron microscope. Projecting from the organism’s surface are many pili, powerful appendages that enable the bacteria to adhere to human cells. Image from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.
April is STD Awareness Month, but this blog has sought to increase your awareness of sexually transmitted infections on a monthly basis. So far in 2011 we’ve pointed the spotlight at human papillomavirus, barrier methods, and herpes. This month’s installment will focus on gonorrhea, colloquially known as “the clap,” a common sexually transmitted infection caused by sneaky bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is spread by vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and can infect certain cells in the throat, mouth, rectum, urethra, or cervix. It can also be transmitted manually to infect the eye. If you are sexually active, you can reduce risk of transmission by consistently and correctly using latex barriers such as condoms and dental dams.
Four out of five females infected with gonorrhea do not experience symptoms – males, however, usually do, but they can be mild and therefore easy to overlook. Symptoms can appear within a month, and might include painful or frequent urination, vaginal or penile discharge, painful bowel movements, itching, or sore throat. Additionally, females can experience abdominal pain, fever, irregular menstruation, or bleeding between periods. In pregnant women, untreated gonorrhea infections can lead to complications such as premature labor or stillbirth. The infection can also be passed from mother to infant during delivery. Continue reading
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Tagged antibiotic resistant gonorrhea, antibiotics, antigenic variation, ARG, bacteria, bacterium, DGI, disseminated gonococcal infection, epididymitis, evolution, fimbriae, flagella, flagellum, GC, gonococci, gonococcus, gonorrhea, HIV, immune response, immune system, microbe, microorganism, N. gonorrhoeae, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Opa protein, Opa proteins, pelvic inflammatory disease, PID, pili, pilus, retractile pili, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted infection, STD, STI, sulfa drugs, sulfanilamide, sulfonamides, the clap, type IV pili