Aggressive UTI bacteria hijack copper, feed off it

Copper has long been known for its ability to kill bacteria and other microbes.

But in an interesting twist, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria — those at the root of hard-to-treat urinary tract infections (UTIs) — hijack trace amounts of copper in the body and use it as a nutrient to fuel growth. The finding suggests blocking this system may starve E. coli infections, opening the door to treating UTIs using drugs that work differently from traditional antibiotics.

The study is published July 24 in Nature Chemical Biology.

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