Immunosenescence in persons with spinal cord injury in relation to urinary tract infections -a cross-sectional study.

Pavlicek, David; Krebs, Jörg; Capossela, Simona; Bertolo, Alessandro; Engelhardt, Britta; Pannek, Jürgen; Stoyanov, Jivko (2017). Immunosenescence in persons with spinal cord injury in relation to urinary tract infections -a cross-sectional study. Immunity & ageing, 14(22), p. 22. BioMed Central 10.1186/s12979-017-0103-6

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Individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI), despite specialized rehabilitation and good health care, have a reduced life expectancy. Infectious diseases, such as pneumonias, infected pressure sores and urinary tract infections (UTI) have been identified as the leading causes of mortality. We hypothesise that a premature onset of immune frailty occurs in SCI, possibly caused also by recurrent urinary tract infections.A cross sectional study was performed comparing blood and urine samples between able bodied controls (n = 84) and persons with spinal cord injury (n = 85). The results were grouped according to age (below and above 60 years). Assessed were the abundancies of immune cells, the concentration of soluble biomarkers, the in vitro functioning of lymphocytes as well as phenotypic exhaustion of T-cells in blood and urine. Further, the leucocyte telomere length and the cytomegalovirus (CMV) serological status were compared between the groups.


We observed in people with SCI lower proportions of naïve T-cells, more memory T-cells, reduced T-cell proliferation and higher CMV prevalence compared to age-matched controls. SCI participants older than 60 years had a higher prevalence of UTI compared with SCI persons younger than 60 years.


The immune system of people with SCI shows traits of an increased immunological strain and a premature onset of immune frailty. The role of UTI in the onset of immune frailty remains to be elucidated as we did not see significantly higher abundancies of circulating UTI-bacteria specific T-cell clones in persons with SCI. We assume that any impact of UTI on the immune system might be compartmentalized and locally restricted to the urinary tract.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Theodor Kocher Institute

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Engelhardt, Britta


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




BioMed Central




Ursula Zingg-Zünd

Date Deposited:

22 Mar 2018 16:22

Last Modified:

22 Oct 2019 22:31

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Cytomegalovirus Immune frailty Immunosenescence Memory T-cell Spinal cord injury Urinary tract infection




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