(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Harry L.T. Mobley has devoted the better part of 25 years to alleviating the "considerable human misery" created by bacteria that make themselves a little too at-home in millions of women's urinary tracts.
Working six days a week, Mobley and the dozen researchers in his University of Michigan lab are trying to develop a nasal spray vaccine for urinary tract infections, to keep these rugged invaders from sticking to the bladder, climbing into kidneys and inflicting a torrent of itching, burning, and frequent urination.
Despite the team's purposeful labors, a safe and effective vaccine for urinary tract infections remains at least a decade off, Mobley figures.
"It's painful to say that, because it's such an urgent need," Mobley, a bacteriologist who chairs the department of microbiology and immunology at Michigan, told ABC News in an interview this week. "Women that get repeated infections -- and I mean one after another and another -- represent about 2.6 percent of all women. These are the ones we get e-mails from that are totally miserable."
Urinary tract infection is second only to respiratory infection as the most common contagious malady. It disproportionately plagues women, who can be stricken with the pain, pelvic pressure and associated symptoms at many stages of life: when they become sexually active, during pregnancy, around menopause, and in later years if they're hospitalized or in nursing homes.
Although few cases prove fatal, recurrent infections -- more than three a year -- of the bladder (cystitis) or kidneys (pyelonephritis) exact an enormous economic toll in medical costs and lost work days. There is a psychological cost too: sufferers feel debilitated and worried that something as enjoyable as sexual activity could lead to another infection.
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