"Urinary tract infections drive me up the wall. You can be as careful as you like but they still strike unexpectedly.  That's the difficulty.  You cannot be sure, you cannot commit to things, and it really affects my business." Jamie Polk

When an individual cannot control their bladder due to the damage caused by spinal cord injury, urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most common and debilitating complications of paralysis.  UTI causes pain and at times significant constitutional disturbance.

According to the Unplanned Admissions Consensus Committee the NHS spent £434 million in 2013/14 on treating 184,000 patients in unplanned admissions associated with a UTI.  UTIs are the second-largest single group of healthcare-associated infections in the UK, accounting for 19.7% of all hospital acquired infections - see the 2016 Updated Guide here

Antibiotics are regularly used to treat UTIs however, antibiotic resistance in now a world-wide health concern and it is widely agreed that further research is needed to identify alternative methods of treatment.

In light of this, a study led by Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust with funding and support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research is investigating if an oral immunotherapy treatment, taken every day in the form of a capsule for 3 months, can help to prevent UTIs in people with reduced or no bladder control due to spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis (MS), transverse myelitis or cauda equina syndrome.

The trial carried out at the National Spinal Injuries Centre alongside the Oxford Centre for Enablement, also aims to improve our understanding of the signs and or/ symptoms associated with UTIs that participants may experience throughout the study.

One participant in the study is Ann Hall, a retired cake decorator from Buckinghamshire who has MS:  "Unfortunately, losing control of the bladder is a very common part of MS, so I do suffer with UTIs.  I was pleased to try and do something that would help with the UTIs and I haven't had one since taking part."

If successful, this vaccine has the potential to prevent UTIs in as many as 83% of people living with spinal cord injury.