Here's Why It's Going to Get Harder for Women to Get Rid of Their Urinary Tract Infection

March 3rd 2017

Almie Rose

On Monday, The World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of "antibiotic-resistant 'priority pathogens'" aka "antibiotic 'superbugs," and the news is particularly troublesome in how it relates to the treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs). As New Scientist reported, one of the pathogens on the list is the gut bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli), the leading cause of UTIs.


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As U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports, UTIs are "the second most common type of infection in the body" and are more common for women. "For women," they report, "the lifetime risk of having a UTI is greater than 50 percent."

Normally, to clear a UTI, one is prescribed antibiotics. But if the antibiotics prove ineffective, the results can be dire. New Scientist noted, "Functioning antibiotics make UTIs only a minor annoyance, but if antibiotics fail, the infection can spread into the kidneys and bloodstream, and even become life-threatening. UTIs that resist one or more types of antibiotic are becoming more common."

So what do we do about UTIs in the future?

For starters, it's also worth noting that the well-known method of using cranberry juice to cure your UTI will probably not work. A study released in Nov. of 2016 published by JAMA showed that patients with UTIs who were given cranberry pills "did not have a significant effect." As Jezebel noted in the wake of the study's release, using cranberry in juice or pill form "is not a treatment. It does not cure UTIs once you have them. Chugging it will not miraculously clear up your bacterial infection. Taking the pills will not soothe the burning when you pee. If you have a UTI, you need a doctor, not the juice section of the grocery store."

Perhaps the most effective route is to focus on prevention. The Mayo Clinic offers some tips to stop a UTI before it starts:

  • Drink lots of water daily.
  • Wipe "from front to back."
  • Pee after sexual intercourse.

Unfortunately, it's unclear when developing new antibiotics for UTIs will become a priority. As Nicola Magrini of the WHO told New Scientist, pharmaceutical companies typically do not want to focus on creating antibiotics that are "too unprofitable to invest in," adding, "what work is being done on new antibiotics is largely aimed at the bacteria for which it is easiest to find and test new drugs, not those doing the most damage." 

[H/T New Scientist]