Women who take hormone replacement therapy after menopause may also receive another benefit: fewer urinary tract infections. A study led by doctors in Texas showed that women taking hormone replacement have a greater variety of beneficial bacteria in their urine, helping to create conditions that discourage infections.
The study also shows that women who suffer from recurrent UTIs have less diversity of urinary bacteria than women who never have infections, making them more prone to this common problem – a growing clinical concern which disproportionately affects postmenopausal women, its leader said.
UTIs are one of the most common types of bacterial infections in women, accounting for nearly 25 percent of all infections. Recurrence of these painful infections can range from 16-36% in premenopausal women to 55% following menopause.
A research group at the University of Texas at Dallas led by Dr. Nicole J. De Nisco collected and analyzed bacterial DNA from the urine of 75 postmenopausal patients. They divided the women into three groups: 25 who had never had a UTI, 25 who had recurrent infections in the past (three or more infections per year) but no current infection, and 25 who had recurrent infections in the past and were also currently infected
The DNA analysis showed that women who never suffered from UTIs had around 10 times the bacterial diversity in their urine as those in the other two groups, DeNisco said. “Secondly, those who were taking hormone replacement tended to have more Lactobacillus-type bacteria in their urine, which may imply that the additional estrogen supports the growth of Lactobacillus in the urogenital tract,” she said, adding that Lactobacillus bacteria are known to play a protective role against other types of infections.
Although DeNisco cautioned that this small study should be repeated with a larger group of women, she said it could lead to development of probiotics or other treatments to help prevent frequent UTIs after menopause.