Urinary Tract Infections in Children: Microbial Virulence Versus Host Susceptibility

  • Catharina SvanborgEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 764)


Urinary tract infections (UTI) are common, dangerous and interesting. This review includes a general background on UTIs and molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis. In addition, we discuss UTI susceptibility and especially the effect of genetic variation on innate immunity.

The symptoms of acute pyelonephritis are caused by the innate immune response and inflammation in the urinary tract decreases renal tubular function and may give rise to renal scarring, especially in childhood. The disease severity is explained by pathogens and their virulence factors triggering signaling through Toll-like receptors (TLRs), interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) and type 1 interferons, and the activation of a host response mediating disease or pathology or clearance of infection. In children with asymptomatic bacteriuria (ABU), in contrast, bacteria persist without causing symptoms or pathology. ABU strains mostly lack virulence factors, and the lack of symptoms has largely been attributed to their lack of virulence. Recently, rapid progress has been made in the understanding of host susceptibility mechanisms. For example, genetic alterations that reduce TLR4 function are associated with ABU while polymorphisms reducing IRF3 or CXCR1 expression are associated with acute pyelonephritis and an increased risk for renal scarring.

Understanding bacterial virulence and host resistance promises new tools to improve the diagnostic accuracy in children with UTI. By combining information on bacterial virulence and the host response, it should be possible to start individualizing diagnosis and therapy. Finally, we propose that the prediction of future disease risk and decisions on prophylaxis and invasive diagnostic procedures might be improved by genetic analysis.


Urinary Tract Infection Interferon Regulatory Factor CXCR1 Expression Renal Scarring Acute Pyelonephritis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Nielubowicz GR, Mobley HL (2010) Host-pathogen interactions in urinary tract infection. Nat Rev Urol 7(8):430–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ragnarsdottir B et al (2011) Genetics of innate immunity and UTI susceptibility. Nat Rev Urol 8(8):449–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bhat RG, Katy TA, Place FC (2011) Pediatric urinary tract infections. Emerg Med Clin North Am 29(3):637–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Montini G, Tullus K, Hewitt I (2011) Febrile urinary tract infections in children. N Engl J Med 365(3):239–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Microbiology, Immunology and GlycobiologyInstitute of Laboratory Medicine, Lund UniversityLundSweden

Personalised recommendations