Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are some of the most common bacterial infections affecting more than 12 million people in the US each year. These infections may occur anywhere along the urinary tract (e.g., urethra, bladder, ureters, kidneys), however, the majority of UTIs are caused by a single pathogen, uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC). While UTIs can happen in anyone, they tend to happen more frequently in women, people using catheters, and patients with spinal cord injuries or urinary tract abnormalities.
An increasing problem in the treatment of UTIs is the development of drug-resistant strains of E. coli. Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest risks to human health today and one of the greatest challenges to our civilization. It is estimated that by 2050 ten million people may be dying annually from drug-resistant infections, and the economic burden may hit $100 trillion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the US, nearly three million people are sickened every year with antibiotic-resistant infections, with at least 35,000 dying as a result. The rise of antibiotic resistance has led to a revival in the investigative and rescue use of bacteriophage (phage) therapy in patients with difficult-to-treat life threatening infections where there are frequently no alternative therapies.