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Study Leads to New Information on How Cranberry Prevents Urinary Tract Infections

Cranberries have been used for ages in the treatment and prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs). But up until now scientists haven't been sure exactly how cranberries provide protection against UTIs. A new study from researchers at Worchester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts may have answered that question.

Previous studies have shown that cranberry's provide UTI protection by preventing bacteria from sticking to urinary tract walls. But this latest research goes a step further and identifies how cranberries spark this anti-adhesion effect.

In the recent study, researchers found that cranberry juice has the ability to change the physical surface of certain bacteria, preventing them from adhering to urinary tract walls and causing infection.

In the study, published in July 2008 issue of Colloids and Surfaces: B, researchers used heat and energy to identify the point at which bacteria are able to attach to cell walls using three control liquids. After obtaining baseline readings on the bacteria the researchers introduced cranberry juice.

They found that the cranberry juice seemed to increase the energy levels of fimbriae bacteria (bacteria with hair-like projections) that cause UTIs. The increased energy altered the physical properties of the bacteria making it difficult for them to attach to cells and cause infection.

Researchers also noted that the cranberry juice seemed to be selective and did not affect non-pathogenic organisms which do not cause infection. That's important for the trillions of friendly bacteria in your gut which promote healthy digestion and immune function.

"Our results show that, at least for urinary tract infections, cranberry juice targets the right kind of bacteria - those that cause disease - but has no effect on non-pathogenic organisms, suggesting that cranberry juice will not disrupt bacteria that are part of the normal flora in the gut [probiotics]" says one of the studies authors, Terri Camesano.

Cranberry changes the physicochemical surface properties of E. coli and adhesion with uroepithelial cells
Liu Y, Gallardo-Moreno AM, Pinzon-Arango PA, Reynolds Y, Rodriguez G, Camesano TA.
Department of Chemical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA 01609, USA.
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