Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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A Bug Can Be Better Than A Drug

December 9, 2004

A Bug Can Be Better Than A Drug

VA research finds introducing certain types of bacteria into the bladder can actually prevent catheter-related urinary tract infections.

Released: 2004/12/09

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Veteran Howard Atkinson, a patient on the MEDVAMC Spinal Cord Injury Unit, discusses treatment options with Rabih O. Darouiche, M.D. a staff physician in the Medical Care and Spinal Cord Injury Care Lines. Atkinson is a participant in the clinical trail led by Darouiche researching the use of certain types of bacteria to prevent catheter-related urinary tract infections.
photo by: Bobbi D. Gruner, MEDVAMC Public Affairs Officer

HOUSTON - Two preliminary clinical trials funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs surprisingly indicate that introducing certain types of bacteria into the bladder can actually prevent catheter-related urinary tract infection. Prompted by this initial success, investigators led by Rabih O. Darouiche, M.D. a staff physician in the Medical Care and Spinal Cord Injury Care Lines at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC), are currently conducting an National Institutes of Health-sponsored multi-center clinical trial to confirm the effectiveness and safety of this approach in patients with spinal cord injury.

Infections of the urinary tract are the most common infections patients with dysfunctional bladder suffer. Persons with spinal cord injury are especially susceptible to urinary tract infections because of their use of an indwelling catheter. Physicians have found that drug-utilizing approaches, including systemic antibiotics, irrigation of the catheter and the bladder with antimicrobial agents, and disinfection of the urinary collection bag, are not very effective in preventing urinary tract infection.

Over the last several years, investigators at the MEDVAMC and Baylor College of Medicine have conducted translational bench-to-bedside research on the efficacy and safety of introducing friendly non-virulent bacteria into the bladder in an effort to prevent unfriendly virulent bacteria from causing catheter-related urinary tract infection.

“The encouraging results from our clinical trials may constitute the basis for evidence-based adoption in the future of an innovative approach for patient care,” said Darouiche.

Darouiche is also the founder and director of the Center for Prostheses Infection at Baylor College of Medicine. He is board certified in internal medicine, infectious disease, and spinal cord injury medicine and has been recognized worldwide for his work on infections associated with indwelling medical devices. In 2003, he received the Investigator Award from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, an annual award presented to an investigator under the age of forty-five for outstanding career contributions to infection control, health care, and epidemiology. In 2004, he was a recipient of the Houston Intellectual Property Law Association “Outstanding Inventor of the Year” Award.