Bear Grylls, that intrepid survival expert from "Man vs. Wild," might want to rethink his penchant for drinking his own urine. Contrary to popular belief, new research shows that urine from an otherwise healthy person may not be as germ-free as we were led to believe.
“For years, actually forever, the belief was that if you don’t have a urinary tract infection, the urine is sterile,” explains Evann Hilt, lead investigator and second-year master’s student at Loyola University Chicago. “We showed that isn’t the case. Humans are microbial supersystems and to think any part is sterile and void is mind-boggling to me.”
Researchers evaluated urine specimens of 84 women, 42 of whom were healthy, and 42 who were diagnosed with symptoms of an overactive bladder, a condition affecting about 15 percent of women, with symptoms including urinary urgency, among others. Results presented Sunday at a microbiology meeting in Boston showed that patients with overactive bladders had a total of 77 different species of bacteria, while the healthy control patients had 33 different species.
Previous Loyola research, published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, showed that when using DNA-based detection techniques, bacteria were present in the bladders of some healthy women who had symptoms of a urinary tract infection, but were free of the problem.
“That study showed there is DNA evidence of bacteria, and what we now showed is that bacteria is alive,” says Hilt.
Although millions of women suffer with overactive bladder, an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent don’t respond to conventional treatments, according to the researchers. One reason for the lack of response to drug treatment may be the bacteria present in these women. The hope is that doctors may be able to identify those at risk for overactive bladder and find more effective treatments.
That need for better treatment can be very important to an aging population more prone urinary issues, says urologist Dr. Adonis Hijaz, director of female pelvic surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “The observations they have made are a big step, but it’s a first step, and whether this is something that proves to be clinically significant remains to be seen.”
As to whether we should actually drink our urine if we’re desperate for hydration, or on a TV show, it’s really up to you. “Based off what we know concerning bacteria being present, I would advise against it," says Hilt. “But I guess you gotta do, what you gotta do to survive.”