Study Finds Tiny Bacteria May Play a Role in Kidney Stones

New York, NY
January 20, 1999

Millions of Americans suffer from kidney stones each year. High concentrations of calcium in the kidney have long been believed to be part of the cause of stones. The results of a new study conducted by researchers in Finland suggests that many stones may actually be caused by tiny bacteria, called nanobacteria. These bacteria are capable of using calcium to build protective shells, which may serve as the seed for calcium deposits that enlarge to become stones.

"These findings are exciting, and may eventually lead to new and more effective ways of treating kidney stones," says Joel D. Kopple, MD, president of the National Kidney Foundation. In the study, the researchers examined 30 stones and found living nanobacteria in all of them. If further studies confirm nanobacteria as the culprit, antibiotic medications might prove to be an effective means of preventing and treating stones.

The main symptom of kidney stones is severe pain, usually starting suddenly, either in the kidneys or lower abdomen, and sometimes radiating to the groin. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, frequent need to urinate, burning urination, blood in the urine, and blocked flow of urine. If infection is present, there may also be fever, chills and cloudy or foul-smelling urine. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away. In many cases, stones pass spontaneously, without special treatment. When they do not pass, treatments such as electroshock wave lithotripsy, also called ESWL, or surgery may be needed.

For additional information about kidney stones, call the National Kidney Foundation at (800) 622-9010. The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing diseases of the kidney and urinary tract, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.