Contemporary management of uncomplicated urinary tract infections

David R P Guay
Drugs 2008, 68 (9): 1169-205
Uncomplicated urinary tract infections (uUTIs) are common in adult women across the entire age spectrum, with mean annual incidences of approximately 15% and 10% in those aged 15-39 and 40-79 years, respectively. By definition, UTIs in males or pregnant females and those associated with risk factors known to increase the risk of infection or treatment failure (e.g. acquisition in a hospital setting, presence of an indwelling urinary catheter, urinary tract instrumentation/interventions, diabetes mellitus or immunosuppression) are not considered herein. The majority of uUTIs are caused by Escherichia coli (70-95%), with Proteus mirabilis, Klebsiella spp. and Staphylococcus saprophyticus accounting for 1-2%, 1-2% and 5-10% of infections, respectively. If clinical signs and symptoms consistent with uUTI are present (e.g. dysuria, frequency, back pain or costovertebral angle tenderness) and there is no vaginal discharge or irritation present, the likelihood of uUTI is >90-95%. Laboratory testing (i.e. urinary nitrites, leukocyte esterase, culture) is not necessary in this circumstance and empirical treatment can be initiated. The ever-increasing incidence of antimicrobial resistance of the common uropathogens in uUTI has been and is a continuing focus of intensive study. Resistance to cotrimoxazole (trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole) has made the empirical use of this drug problematic in many geographical areas. If local uropathogen resistance rates to cotrimoxazole exceed 10-25%, empirical cotrimoxazole therapy should not be utilized (fluoroquinolones become the new first-line agents). In a few countries, uropathogen resistance rates to the fluoroquinolones now exceed 10-25%, rendering empirical use of fluoroquinolones problematic. With the exception of fosfomycin (a second-line therapy), single-dose therapy is not recommended because of suboptimal cure rates and high relapse rates. Cotrimoxazole and the fluoroquinolones can be administered in 3-day regimens. Nitrofurantoin, a second-line therapy, should be given for 7 days. beta-Lactams are not recommended because of suboptimal clinical and bacteriological results compared with those of non-beta-lactams. If a beta-lactam is chosen, it should be given for 7 days. Management of uUTIs can frequently be triaged to non-physician healthcare personnel without adverse clinical consequences, resulting in substantial cost savings. It can be anticipated that the optimal approach to the management of uUTIs will change substantially in the future as a consequence of antimicrobial resistance.

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