What is the 2-step path in the pathogenesis of acute pyelonephritis (kidney infection)?

Updated: Jul 01, 2021
  • Author: Tibor Fulop, MD, PhD, FACP, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Evidence suggests that the pathogenesis of pyelonephritis takes a 2-step path. First, UPEC attaches to the epithelium and triggers an inflammatory response involving at least 2 receptors, glycosphingolipid (GSL) and Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). In the mouse model, GSL is the primary receptor and TLR4 is recruited and is an important receptor for the release of chemokines. When TLR4 is genetically absent, an asymptomatic carrier state develops in the infected mice.

Second, as a result of the inflammatory response, chemokines (eg, interleukin-8 [IL-8], which is chemotactic for PMNs) are released and attach to the neutrophil-activating chemokine receptor 1 (CXCR1), allowing PMNs to cross the epithelial barrier into the urine. In children prone to pyelonephritis, for example, CXCR1 expression has been shown to be significantly lower than in control subjects.

Several other host factors militate against symptomatic UTI. Phagocytosis of bacteria in urine is maximized at pH 6.5-7.5 and osmolality of 485 mOsm; values deviating from these ranges lead to significantly reduced or absent phagocytosis. Other important factors are the flushing action of urine flow in the ureter and bladder, the inhibition of attachment of type 1 fimbriae E coli to uroepithelial cells by tubular cell–secreted Tamm-Horsfall protein, and the inhibition of attachment by some surface mucopolysaccharides on the uroepithelial cells.

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