UTI Vaccine: Here's Why It Still Doesn't Exist


The pain, the burning, the constant sensation of having to pee and the frustrating inevitability of not being able to when the time comes — these are just a few harbingers of the dreaded urinary tract infection. UTIs are most often the result of unwelcome bacteria working their way into the bladder and spawning. They're deeply uncomfortable, potentially dangerous and largely ignored by the medical community. But why?

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"While it could be argued that UTIs are a relatively minor issue that just has to be dealt with, it could also be argued that this is a dismissively sexist attitude that holds women back," Lauren Oyler of Broadly wrote. "Also, fuck you — you don't know what it's like."


As an affliction that plagues some 50% to 60% of women at least once in their adult lives, the UTI seems a worthy candidate for research — there should be some kind of cure or preventative measure available, especially considering that approximately one in 10 UTIs is chronic, according to Oyler. The struggle is, in other words, real.

There are a few combat efforts in the works. GlycoVaxyn AG and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. began the first phase of clinical trials on a vaccine that targets UTI-causing E. coli in July 2014. In 2011, researchers at the University of Michigan began work on a nasal spray vaccine that would prevent E. coli from sticking to the inside of the bladder with an eye to eliminating "considerable human misery." At least someone gets it.

As Broadly reported, a recent Swiss study published in Nature suggests that it might be possible to thwart UTIs with an oral pill by interfering with the protein that allows E.coli to adhere to bladder walls. And yet, despite modest strides made in UTI medication development, science does not have a solution to our burning bladder hell state.

As urology professor Dr. David J. Klumpp of Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine told Oyler, the lack of urgency in searching for a UTI vaccine has been hindered by two major factors: an apparent widespread belief that this isn't a pressing problem and the perception amongst investors and pharmaceutical companies that antibiotics already on the market were "good enough" — a UTI-specific vaccine wasn't worth the time or money. Humans have complex anatomy; there are different causes behind different UTIs, and finding a treatment that works for everyone would require a fair amount of both things.


It's sort of like the male birth control holdup: there are already options, albeit less-than-ideal options, available to women that make Big Pharma money. Women, it seems, will continue to deal with the much shorter end of the stick because it's more lucrative for drug manufacturers. One of the many wonderful things about having a vagina.