I am a research microbiologist. Specifically, I study the metabolism in relation to virulence factors in uropathogenic E. coli (aka UPEC). What that means is I study bacteria that cause urinary tract infections and how they make you sick. Yep, I play with pee-pee bacteria all day and I love it!
Urinary tract infections (UTIs), especially in women, are hugely common and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, as like many other infections, they are becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant. Escherichia coli (E. coli for short) is one of the most common bacteria responsible for causing this type of infection. However, fear not, the little guys I study are not the scary ones that you've been hearing about recently on the news. Nope, these little guys hang out in your urinary tract and do not cause all the icky symptoms some of their siblings do from the other waste outlet. A UTI can be very uncomfortable and on occasion have some serious complications, but are not usually the source of a fatal infection if treated. Sometimes, these little buggers will get out of hand and creep up into the kidneys. Once there they are now the cause of a kidney infection which can have very serious complications. So, while my little specimens generally are just annoying, if left unchecked, they can be the source of a potentially deadly situation. Which is why we need to find other means to treat UTIs.
Our lab is focusing on these alternative methods of treating UTIs. In order to do this we have to have intimate understanding of how the bacteria function and create infection. We are learning so much everyday about these little guys. Stay tuned for more information on how UTIs work and what you can do to remain infection free.