Waterborne Urinary Tract Infections: Have We Overlooked an Important Source of Exposure?

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  • 1 Berkeley School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California;
  • 2 Center for Health Studies, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala;
  • 3 Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, Washington State University Pullman, Guatemala City, Guatemala

The presence of intestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli in drinking water is well recognized as a risk for diarrhea. The role of drinking water in extraintestinal infections caused by E. coli—such as urinary tract infections (UTIs)—remains poorly understood. Urinary tract infections are a leading cause of outpatient infections globally, with a lifetime incidence of 50–60% in adult women. We reviewed the scientific literature on the occurrence of uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) in water supplies to determine whether the waterborne route may be an important, overlooked, source of UPEC. A limited number of studies have assessed whether UPEC isolates are present in drinking water supplies, but no studies have measured whether their presence in water may increase UPEC colonization or the risk of UTIs in humans. Given the prevalence of drinking water supplies contaminated with E. coli across the globe, efforts should be made to characterize UTI-related risks associated with drinking water, as well as other pathways of exposure.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Jay P. Graham, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, 2121 Berkeley Way West, Rm. 5302, Berkeley, CA 94720. E-mail: jay.graham@berkeley.edu

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Disclosure: The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Financial support: Research reported in this publication was supported in part (for J. P. G. and H. A.) by the National Institutes of Health under award number R01AI135118.

Authors’ addresses: Jay P. Graham and Heather Amato, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, UC Berkeley School of Public Health, Berkeley, CA, E-mails: jay.graham@berkeley.edu and heather_amato@berkeley.edu. Renata Mendizabal-Cabrera, Centro de Estudios en Salud, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala, E-mail: rmendizabal@ces.uvg.edu.gt. Danilo Alvarez, Centro de Estudios en Salud, Instituto de Investigaciones, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala, E-mail: dalvarez@ces.uvg.edu.gt. Brooke Ramay, Instituto de Investigaciones Ciudad de Guatemala, Centro de Estudios en Salud, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala, and The Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, Washington State University Pullman, Center for Health Studies, Guatemala City, Guatemala, E-mail: bramay@uvg.edu.gt.

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