Immunity to uropathogens: the emerging roles of inflammasomes

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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) cause a huge burden of morbidity worldwide with recurrent UTIs becoming increasingly frequent owing to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Interactions between the innate and adaptive immune responses to pathogens colonizing the urinary tract have been the focus of much research. Inflammasomes are part of the innate immune defence and can respond rapidly to infectious insult. Assembly of the multiprotein inflammasome complex activates caspase-1, processes proinflammatory cytokines IL-1β and IL-18, and induces pyroptosis. These effector pathways, in turn, act at different levels to either prevent or resolve infection, or eliminate the infectious agent itself. In certain instances, inflammasome activation promotes tissue pathology; however, the precise functions of inflammasomes in UTIs remain unexplored. An improved understanding of inflammasomes could provide novel approaches for the design of diagnostics and therapeutics for complicated UTIs, enabling us to overcome the challenge of drug resistance.

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