Women everywhere can say goodbye to cranberry juice and antibiotics and hello to Uqora — a new urinary tract infection prevention method that tastes like lemonade and doesn’t require insurance or a visit to the doctor.
Anyone who has suffered from a UTI will be distinctly familiar with the sharp burning, discomfort during urination and general misery that are hallmark qualities of the infection. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, UTIs are the second most common type of infection in the body and account for about 8.1 million hospital visits annually. They require antibiotics to cure and can stick around for up to four days making them expensive, uncomfortable and inconvenient.
Enter Uqora: the brainchild of University of California Berkeley graduate Spencer Gordon, a microbiologist who watched his girlfriend and product cofounder Jenna Ryan suffer from UTIs for more than four years.
In an effort to find a solution to Ryan’s discomfort and excessive reliance on antibiotics, Gordon teamed up with doctors and urologists to find a solution in the form of a sugar called D-mannose. According to Ryan, the carbohydrate works by binding to the bacterium that causes UTIs and allowing them to be flushed out of the body.
“The way a UTI works is that bacteria attaches to the urinary tract, so by combining D-mannose and a mild diuretic, Uqora is able to catalyze the bodies natural defenses.” Ryan said.
Uqora is a preventative measure, not a cure for a current infection. By reducing the number of UTIs women experience per year, Ryan and Gordon hope to lower women’s reliance on antibiotics and in turn prevent serious health complications.
“Antibiotics are troubling in their own way,” Ryan said. “I’ll first say that if you have a UTI you need antibiotics – Uqora is only a prevention. Sometimes antibiotics are put forth as a preventative measure but there are real implications to being on antibiotics.”
Ryan explained the problem with continuous antibiotic use is that they kill the good bacteria that the vagina needs to stay balanced. Once this bacteria is gone, yeast infections often occur – causing women who have set out to rid themselves of an infection to develop a yeast infection on top of the pre-existing issue.
“The other implication that is even scarier is that you can develop antibiotic resistance so in the past your infection would be benign with antibiotics but then it can then spiral into something life threatening,” Ryan said.
Uqora, which is currently only available online, is manufactured in Arizona in a Food and Drug Administration approved factory. While the current FDA guidelines do not require supplements like Uqora to be subject to approval, the product’s individual ingredients are all FDA approved.
Uqora is entering the market during a crucial time in the world of women’s health. In the past month, the Trump administration has reinstated a global gag rule that prevents U.S. aid from funding women’s organizations overseas. The House of Representatives has voted to enable states to defund Planned Parenthood, and the Affordable Care Act is in the process of being repealed.
“It’s definitely an interesting time to be in the women’s health industry and it’s great to connect with customers because the brand is an extension of myself,” Ryan said. “The darker side is that we are in a time where Planned Parenthood is being taken away and the ACA will be rescinded and there is no clear alternative. Because of this it feels more poignant than ever to be talking about this issue.”
Ryan explained that there is also a problematic culture of talking about and treating UTIs like they are sexually transmitted diseases because many women are susceptible to them after intercourse.
“I think that this issue has been forced underground because women have been embarrassed and want to keep it a secret,” Ryan said. “If this was a man’s’ issue it would have been solved a long time ago and I think it’s incredibly important to get women to be vocal and not lock it away behind doctor’s office doors.”
Lia Tabackman, Contributing Writer