Cranberries vs. Antibiotics

Urinary tract infections have botanical and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole remedies

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

(RxWiki News) Botanical verses pharmaceutical. When it comes to urinary tract infections, women have to weigh the risks and benefits of both to find the remedy that's right for them.

A recent study shows that a common antibiotic - trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) - is more effective than cranberry supplements in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs), but not without risk. Regular use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, a growing problem that threatens to make bacteria more powerful and harder to treat.

"Ask your doctor about natural and pharmaceutical ways to prevent UTIs."

Nearly half of all women will suffer from a urinary tract infection at least once in their lives. For some women - up to 30 percent - UTIs are an ongoing nuisance, occuring multiple times in a single year.

To prevent these recurrent UTIs (rUTIs), low-dose antibiotics are often prescribed. Authors of the study say this practice can lead to drug resistance not only of bacteria that causes the infections but also healthy flora.

Studies have shown that cranberries and cranberry capsules are also effective in treating the ailment, but there has never been a study comparing them against antibiotic use.

For this double-blind study, researchers from the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam recruited 221 premenopausal women who reported having had at least three UTIs in the previous year. Participants took either TMP-SMX or cranberry capsules daily for 12 months.

UTIs returned sooner and more frequently in women taking cranberries vs. those being given the antibiotics. At the same time, antibiotic resistance tripled in the antibiotic group. However, three months after women stopped taking the drug, levels of resistance returned to what they'd been before the trial.

Authors reported that while the antibiotics were more effective in preventing UTIs, for women concerned with antibiotic resistance, cranberry capsules were a "useful alternative."

Results from this study are published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 27, 2011
Last Updated:
July 30, 2011