Bacterial Growth of Uropathogenic Escherichia coli in Pooled Urine Is Much Higher than Predicted from the Average Growth in Individual Urine Samples

Jacob Hogins, Ethan Fan, Zheyar Seyan, Sam Kusin, Alana L. Christie, Philippe E. Zimmern, Larry Reitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Urinary tract infections (UTIs), mostly caused by uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), affect most women, and often recur. Genomic and transcriptomic analyses have not identified a common set of virulence genes, which has suggested complex host-pathogen interactions and multiple virulence mechanisms. One aspect of the host-pathogen interaction is rapid UPEC growth in urine in vivo. When bacterial growth in urine is studied in vitro, urine is pooled, which is assumed to diminish individual variation. We grew one nonpathogenic and two pathogenic E. coli strains in urine from individuals who never had a UTI, had a UTI history but no current infection, and had a UTI history with a current infection. Bacterial growth showed large variations in individual urine samples, and pooled urine often supported significantly more growth than the average growth from individual urine samples. Total nutrient content tended to be higher in current group urine samples than the never and history grouped samples urine. We propose that pooling optimizes a nutrient mixture in the never and history group urine samples, which are often studied, whereas urine from current group individuals may have a more optimal nutrient mixture because of additional nutrient sources. We conclude that a pooled urine is not “an average urine sample,” and that the best comparisons of results between labs using pooled urine would also include results with a standardized synthetic urine. IMPORTANCE Urinary tract infections (UTIs) will affect most women, can recur especially in postmenopausal women, and can become antibiotic recalcitrant. Escherichia coli causes most community-acquired UTIs and recurrent UTIs. Current theories of virulence, based on studies of UTI-associated E. coli, propose multiple virulence mechanisms and complex host-pathogen interactions. Studies of bacterial growth in urine samples—one aspect of the host-pathogen interaction—invariably involve pooled urine that are assumed to eliminate variations between individuals. Our results show that a pooled urine is not necessarily an average urine sample, and we suggest that quantitative and qualitative variations in nutrient content are the basis for this discrepancy. Knowledge of growth-promoting urinary components is important for understanding host-pathogen interactions during UTIs and could contribute to developing nonantibiotic-based therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • bacterial growth
  • Escherichia coli
  • urinary tract infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


Dive into the research topics of 'Bacterial Growth of Uropathogenic Escherichia coli in Pooled Urine Is Much Higher than Predicted from the Average Growth in Individual Urine Samples'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this