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the patrick c. walsh prostate cancer research fund
Infection and Prostate Cancer
What bacteria are supposed to be in the urine?
There are lot of “microbiomes” around your body. These are little microclimates, with their own unique residents. For example, the bacteria that thrive in your gut are not the same bacteria that live on your hands. “Trillions of bacteria live in and on our bodies and they are ‘good;’ they help maintain our health, not hinder it,” says pathologist Karen Sfanos, Ph.D. “But, the healthy microbiome can be altered by things like diet or exposures to toxins and carcinogens.” In the prostate, she continues, “an altered microbiome can lead to infections and chronic inflammation, a condition that is linked to many types of disease, including cancer. Scientists have discovered recently that urine, long thought to be sterile, in fact is not. There are bacteria in there all the time, not just in the presence of an infection.
“This recent discovery made us wonder whether infections that may cause chronic inflammation in the prostate could be caused by alterations to the normal urinary microbiome.” The first step in answering this question is to figure out what’s normal. What bacteria are supposed to be in the urine? “We have begun to profile the urinary microbiome in men with prostate cancer and in men without prostate cancer,” says Sfanos. In work supported by the Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund, with co-investigator Angelo De Marzo, M.D., Ph.D., Sfanos will “conduct the first study that will visualize and localize bacterial species of interest. What we ultimately hope to achieve is to determine what a high-risk urinary microbiome is in terms of developing prostate cancer. If men can be tested for this high-risk urinary microbiome, it may be that they could be treated with specific antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs as a means to prevent prostate cancer development or progression.”