New study on recurring UTI infections yields surprising results
Posted Aug 02 2011 3:04am
By Colette Bouchez
If you’ve been using nutritional cranberry supplements to keep your UTI (urinary tract infections) under control there is both good news and bad. A new study funded by the and just published in the reports that antibiotics are more effective than cranberries at controlling recurring UTIs. But, the study also showed that antibiotics increase your risk of developing a drug-resistant bacteria - and that could be dangerous or even deadly.
Indeed, while the number of recurring infections was cut in half for those women taking the antibiotic, the benefits of those odds seemed to change when the women were also tested for antibiotic resistance.
After just one month of using the antibiotic TMP-SMX (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole), resistance to this drug increased three-fold, to as high as 90.5 percent in some women. Resistance to other antibiotics increased as well. There was only a slight increase in antibiotic resistance in women who used the cranberry supplement.
As such, the study author Dr Mariëlle Beerepoot concluded that the use of antibiotics in the treatment of recurring UTIs “should be weighed against the greater development of antibiotic resistance.”
Cranberries vs antibiotics: Study details
The involved 221 pre-menopausal women who reported having 3 or more UTI infections in the previous year. In a double blind study each of the women were assigned to take either one 480 mg capsule of TMP-SMX daily or 500mg of , a cranberry extract capsule, twice daily. Neither the participants or the researchers knew which women were taking the drugs and which ones were taking the cranberry extract.
The end goal of the study: To determine the number of symptomatic urinary tract infections in each of the two groups over a period of 12 months; how soon the first infection would occur after starting preventive treatment; and development of antibiotic resistance to the E-coli bacteria responsible for most UTIs.
The study result: When the study code was broken and the results analyzed researchers learned that the women taking the antibiotic treatment developed 1.8 infections over the course of 12 months, compared to 4 infections in the women taking the cranberry extract. The number of women who developed any infection was slightly higher in the cranberry group than in the group taking the antibiotic.
Moreover the women taking the antibiotic took at least 8 months to develop an infection while the women taking the cranberry capsules saw infections occur after just 4 months of treatment.
So while it may appear as if antibiotics are a better choice for preventing recurring UTIs, that assumption changed when researchers also looked at the number of bacteria that became antibiotic resistance.
In the cranberry group, between 23% and 28% had bacteria that were resistant to antibiotic.
In the group taking the antibiotic, nearly 91% were found to have antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Moreover, after taking the TMP-SMX antibiotic for just one month, these same women also had increased resistance to other antibiotics including trimethoprim, amoxicillin and ciprofloxacin. After stopping the TMP-SMX antibiotic, resistance levels dropped to baseline. In the group taking the cranberry capsules, there was no increase in antibiotic resistance.
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