Editors note: Two of our blog posts on aging and the microbiome were recently shared with the website Gut Microbiota for Health. Our readers should take a look!
Some people suffer from an enigmatic diagnosis known as urologic chronic pelvic pain syndrome (UCPPS), also known as non-bacterial chronic prostatitis. UCPPS’s symptoms are rather similar to urinary tract infections (UTI’s), with a conspicuous lack of a bacterial cause. In order to diagnose UCPPS doctors must do a bacterial culture of the urine, and if no bacteria grow then the UCPPS diagnosis may be given. While many believe that this disease may be caused by stress or hormone imbalances, a team of researchers from across the U.S. and Canada investigated if there was a bacterial cause. As we know, much of the microbiome is unculturable, and can only be identified through genome sequencing. These researchers hypothesized that bacteria are the true cause of UCPPS, and that UCPPS is similar to UTI, only the bacteria are unculturable, and so basic hospital screens for the bacteria fail to identify them. The scientists recently published the results of their study in The Journal of Urology.
The researchers did genome analyses on 110 urine samples from male patients suffering from UCPPS and 115 urine samples from normal males with no UCPPS diagnosis. The results showed that both the groups had approximately 75 bacteria in their urine, all of which would unlikely have cultured in normal hospital assays. When they compared the types of bacteria between the groups they noticed that Burkholderia cenocepacia was highly abundant in patients with UCPPS but not the control group. Interestingly, this species had been previously identified as a possible urologic pathogen.
The study had a number of limitations, and the authors admit as much. For example, it is unclear there sampling procedures would adequately identify any bacteria causing biofilms, and they limited the study to bacteria so fungi and viruses went untested. Still, it is compelling evidence for a bacterial cause to a disease that had previously been thought to not have a bacterial origin. These findings really speak to what prominent microbiome scientist, and member of the AMI’s scientific advisory board, Rob Knight recently said in an interview with NPR: “When you consider the number of diseases where, just over the last five years, it went from being crazy to think the microbes were involved to now being crazy to think the microbes aren't involved, it's amazing how rapidly the evidence has been accumulating.”