Can zinc be used to treat UTIs?
07/22/2019 // Melissa Smith // Views

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common bacterial infections worldwide. If left untreated, they can lead to serious conditions like kidney infection and sepsis. They are often treated with conventional medicine and antibiotic drugs, which come with adverse side effects and may even result in antibiotic resistance. Therefore, scientists continue to look for ways to beat UTIs without using pharmaceutical drugs.

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia suggest the use of zinc for treating UTIs. They looked at how the immune system uses zinc to fight uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), which is the primary cause of UTIs.

Prior to the study, the researchers already knew that zinc was toxic to bacteria. Using direct visualization, they confirmed that macrophages (immune system cells) deploy zinc to fight bacterial infections.

Additionally, they found that UPEC had a two-pronged approach to surviving the body’s immune response. They saw that unlike non-pathogenic bacteria, UPEC could avoid the zinc toxicity response of macrophages. These bacteria also exhibited enhanced resistance to the toxic effects of zinc.

The researchers explained that these findings can shed light on how the immune system fights infections. They noted that these give clues on potential avenues to develop treatments, including blocking UPEC’s evading strategy to make it more sensitive to zinc.

"Treatment strategies that don't use antibiotics have the advantage of bacteria not developing resistance; if we can reprogram our immune cells to make them stronger, or change the way they respond to bacteria, we would be better equipped to fight superbugs," explained Dr. Ronan Kapetanovic, one of the lead researchers of the study.


Aside from antibiotic resistance, the use of antibiotics as UTI treatments may also harm good bacteria in the body. It may also cause diarrhea, rashes, headaches, nausea and vomiting, and abnormal liver function.

The research team also identified the full set of UPEC genes that provide protection against zinc toxicity. This knowledge can be used to develop antimicrobial agents for treating UTIs.

Moreover, the researchers suggested that the methods they used could be applied to research of other bacterial diseases because macrophages exhibit zinc toxicity against several types of bacteria that are not cleared from the body by normal mechanisms. These include Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Salmonella, and Streptococcus.

"We developed zinc sensors that can be adapted to study different types of bacteria, bringing us closer to understanding our immune system better and creating therapies for a range of infectious diseases," said Claudia Stocks, one of the study’s researchers.

The research team published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Treating UTI without prescription drugs

If you're suffering from UTI, here are some natural remedies you can try at home to help improve your condition and reduce the likelihood of recurrent infections:

  • Consume cranberries – Consuming unsweetened cranberry juice, cranberry supplements, or dried cranberries may lower your risk of UTI because the fruit contains an ingredient that prevents bacteria from attaching to your urinary tract walls.
  • Drink lots of water – Drinking plenty of water allows you to urinate more. Urinating regularly removes bad bacteria from your urinary tract.
  • Don’t hold your urine – Holding your urine can allow bacteria to multiply in your urinary tract.
  • Take probiotics – Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote healthy digestion and immunity. Probiotics can help treat and prevent UTIs. (Related: A promising new alternative to antibiotics for UTI.)
  • Increase your vitamin C intake – Getting more vitamin C, either through foods or supplements, may help prevent a UTI. Vitamin C can prevent infection by boosting your immunity and helping to acidify the urine.

Like many diseases, UTI is preventable with the proper diet and lifestyle habits. Learn more ways on how to fight infections such as UTI at

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