For generations, urinary tract infections, one of the world’s most common ailments, have been easily and quickly cured with a simple course of antibiotics.
But there is growing evidence that the infections, which afflict millions of Americans a year, mostly women, are increasingly resistant to these medicines, turning a once-routine diagnosis into one that is leading to more hospitalizations, graver illnesses and prolonged discomfort from the excruciating burning sensation that the infection brings.
The New York City Department of Health has become so concerned about drug-resistant U.T.I.s, as they are widely known, that it introduced a new mobile phone app this month that gives doctors and nurses access to a list of strains of urinary tract infections and which drugs they are resistant to.
The department’s research found that a third of uncomplicated urinary tract infections caused by E. coli — the most common type now — were resistant to Bactrim, one of the most widely used drugs, and at least one fifth of them were resistant to five other common treatments.
“This is crazy. This is shocking,” said Lance Price, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University, who was not involved in the research. The drug ampicillin, once a mainstay for treating the infections, has been abandoned as a gold standard because it is so often resistant to multiple strains of U.T.I.s. Some urinary tract infections now require treatment with heavy-duty intravenous antibiotics. Researchers last year reported in a study that a third of all U.T.I.s in Britain are resistant to “key antibiotics.”
Certainly, the day-to-day