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Antibiotics not always the answer for urinary tract infections


Some women are choosing to avoid using antibiotics to tackle minor urinary tract infections, research shows.

According to figures in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Family Practice, many women found positive results when they chose not to opt for antibiotics and allowed their body to battle the infection naturally.

Some 70% of women with symptoms of uncomplicated urinary tract infections who chose not to go on a course of antibiotics found that after a week they were cured or showed signs of improvement.

In recent years so-called ‘superbugs’, which are resistant to many antibiotics, have been on the rise and antimicrobial-resistant bacteria is already a problem for the medical profession.

Using antibiotics too much can increase the chance of bacteria developing a resistance, and while in some more serious cases antibiotics can save lives, they do not work on some viruses.

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam asked women with symptoms of uncomplicated urinary tract infections to postpone taking antibiotics.

Of those asked, a third were willing to delay treatment. Of those women, about half had still not taken antibiotics a week later. About two-thirds of these were better or had seen an improvement in their clinical condition.

Dr Bart Knottnerus, from the Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam, said: “Women may be more receptive to the idea of delaying treatment than is commonly assumed by many clinicians.

“Given proper observations to simply doing nothing, or giving pain medication instead of an antibiotic, is an effective treatment and one which will reduce the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”


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Readers' comments (5)

  • drink lots and lot of water, that's what I did and I was better within 2 days.

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  • many women already delay before seeking medical advice for diagnosis and treatment. obviously the condition if not severe can resolve on its own. there is a risk, however, of a tracking renal infection.

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  • by the time you get to see your GP you could be extremely ill. I was lucky that I got a UTI at work, I could do my own urine test, take it to the Dr who saw me that day as I VERY insistent.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Jun-2013 6:10 am

    it seems one has to be assertive and persistent in any medical consultation nowadays to get the required treatment and diagnosis, at the risk of being labelled and having entered in one's notes 'difficult patient', 'non compliant' or 'refused treatment' if there is any disagreement. this won't help the patient when notes are digitalised and accessible to other hc professionals as it may colour their judgement of the patient but rarely of those who made the entry!

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  • I have felt incredibly ill with UTI's and dread to think what damage would have been done, as it was spreading to my kidneys each time, if I hadn't had antibiotics which relieved my symptoms within days. I tested my own urine in work and had massive haematuria and leucocytes. I could barely function I felt so bad, and had to take days off work. I delayed going to the GP thinking it would clear up with lots of fluids but it just got worse, so I won't hesitate next time.

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