Updated 17 April 2015

Urine isn't sterile, study finds

The popular belief that urine is sterile is questioned as bacteria found in the bladder is linked to urinary incontinence.


Though it's commonly believed that urine is bacteria-free, normal urine is not sterile, a new study finds.

Bacteria in urine linked to infections

"Clinicians previously equated the presence of bacteria in urine to infections. The discovery of bacteria in the urine of healthy females provides an opportunity to advance our understanding of bladder health and disease," study author Alan Wolfe, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

Instead of collecting urine samples from a woman's urine stream, the researchers used catheters to collect urine directly from the bladder.

Read: Preventing incontinence

Testing this way revealed that bacteria were present in urine taken from the bladders of healthy women. The researchers also found that some of those bacteria may contribute to urinary leakage or a loss of bladder control (incontinence).

Additionally, the study found that some types of bacteria are more common in women with urinary incontinence.

Traditional urine cultures have limited utility

"While traditional urine cultures have been the gold standard to identify urine disorders in the past, they do not detect most bacteria and have limited utility as a result. They are not as comprehensive as the testing techniques used in this study," Wolfe explained.

"Physicians and researchers must reassess their assumptions surrounding the cause of lower urinary tract disorders and consider new approaches to prevent and treat these debilitating health issues," Wolfe said.

Read: Causes of incontinence

The study was recently published in the journal European Urology.

"If we can determine that select bacteria cause various lower urinary tract symptoms, we may be able to better identify those women at risk and more effectively treat them," study co-author Dr. Linda Brubaker, dean and chief diversity officer at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said in the news release.

Read More:

Kris Jenner has urinary incontinence

The dangers of transvaginal mesh to repair stress urinary incontinence

10 things you didn’t know about urinary incontinence

Image: Urine sample from Shutterstock

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Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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