Cranberries and juice made from them have long been recommended as a natural way to fight urinary tract infections. Now, scientists from McGill University's Department of Chemical Engineering believe they have uncovered the biological mechanisms by which cranberries protect against UTIs and other bacterial infections.
Two new studies, led by McGill’s Nathalie Tufenkji, suggest compounds in cranberries — phytochemicals known as proanthocyanidins (PACs) — block bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract and might one day be used to prevent bacterial contamination of medical devices such as catheters.
The studies, published online in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology, found cranberry powder can inhibit the movement and activity of Proteus mirabilis — a bacterium frequently implicated in complicated UTIs.
The findings are significant because bacterial movement is a key mechanism for the spread of infection.
"While the effects of cranberry in living organisms remain subject to further study, our findings highlight the role that cranberry consumption might play in the prevention of chronic infections," Tufenkji said. "More than 150 million cases of UTI are reported globally each year, and antibiotic treatment remains the standard approach for managing these infections. The current rise of bacterial resistance to antibiotics underscores the importance of developing another approach."
Another recent study led by Tufenkji in collaboration with McGill professor Showan Nazhat found cranberry-enriched silicone can hinder the spread of germs in implantable medical devices such as catheters, which are frequently implicated in UTIs.
"Based on the demonstrated bioactivity of cranberry, its use in catheters and other medical devices could someday yield considerable benefits to patient health," Tufenkji said.
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