The Strong Survive, Even Bacteria

Urinary tract infection drugs are prescribed more often than needed

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's an endless cycle: strong medications beat the germs, then the germs that survive grow again and beat that medication. Drugs are constantly being improved to combat these super bugs.

A recent study presented at a conference shows that more powerful medicines to treat infections in the urinary tract are used more often than necessary.

"Talk to your doctor about the right treatment for UTIs."

Urinary tract infections are some of the most commonly treated infections.

Bacteria that normally live in the gut without problems usually cause cystitis, the most common UTI. Sometimes though they can cause infection.

Microbes naturally evolve to resist antibiotics, but by using drugs too much and too often, the bacteria become stronger at a faster rate, according to researchers under the direction of Jessina McGregor, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacy and at Oregon State University.

This growing resistance is a concern for many other bacteria, researchers said, including the life-threatening MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Because of this concern, researchers point out that doctors are prescribing newer, more expensive and more powerful drugs to combat these germs.

Researchers looked at data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) between 1998 and 2009.

It includes ambulatory and emergency department visits from across the nation.

The women who were treated for UTIs averaged about 50 years old and were 80 percent white.

They found that about 2 percent of all adult women's' visits to the doctor during the 12-year span were for these UTI infections.

Specifically, the number of doctors' visits for cystitis averaged 195 per 1,000 women.

And doctors prescribed antibiotic treatments 71 percent of the time.

The researchers recommend doctors and patients talk about the possible problems that come with antibiotic therapy and only use the stronger meds if it's really needed.

“Many people have heard about the issues with MRSA and antibiotic resistance, but they don’t realize that some of our much more common and frequent infections raise the same concerns,” Dr. McGregor said.

Older, inexpensive and drugs that better target urinary tract infections should be considered first before the stronger drugs, Dr. McGregor said.

“That’s in everyone’s best interests, both the patient and the community," she said.

"So people should talk with their doctor about risks and benefits of different treatment options to find the antibiotic best suited for them, even if it is one of the older drugs.”

OSU researchers, who are working on tools to help doctors select the right antibiotic treatment for each individual, presented the information September 9-12 at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 12, 2012
Last Updated:
October 14, 2012