Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common pathological conditions in both community and hospital settings. It has been estimated that about 150 million people worldwide develop UTI each year, with high social costs in terms of hospitalizations and medical expenses. Among the common uropathogens associated to UTIs development, UroPathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) is the primary cause. UPEC strains possess a plethora of both structural (as fimbriae, pili, curli, flagella) and secreted (toxins, iron-acquisition systems) virulence factors that contribute to their capacity to cause disease, although the ability to adhere to host epithelial cells in the urinary tract represents the most important determinant of pathogenicity. On the opposite side, the bladder epithelium shows a multifaceted array of host defenses including the urine flow and the secretion of antimicrobial substances, which represent useful tools to counteract bacterial infections. The fascinating and intricate dynamics between these players determine a complex interaction system that needs to be revealed. This review will focus on the most relevant components of UPEC arsenal of pathogenicity together with the major host responses to infection, the current approved treatment and the emergence of resistant UPEC strains, the vaccine strategies, the natural antimicrobial compounds along with innovative anti-adhesive and prophylactic approaches to prevent UTIs.
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