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Prescrire Int. 2014 Feb;23(146):47-9.

Recurrent uncomplicated cystitis in women: allowing patients to self-initiate antibiotic therapy.

[No authors listed]


Acute uncomplicated cystitis is a lower urinary tract infection occurring in the absence of anatomic or functional abnormalities of the urinary tract or any other complicating factors.The organism responsible is often an enterobacterium, especially Escherichia coli. What is the role of antibiotic therapy for non-pregnant women with recurrent acute uncomplicated cystitis? We reviewed the available evidence using the standard Prescrire methodology. A single oral dose of fosfomycin trometamol is the antibiotic of choice for treating an episode of acute uncomplicated cystitis. Alternative antibiotics are certain fluoroquinolones or co-trimoxazole (a fixed-dose combination of sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim). For recurrent acute uncomplicated cystitis, cranberry juice has modest efficacy in reducing the frequency of episodes. A number of non-drug measures are typically proposed, although their effects are unproven: drinking sufficient fluids and urinating regularly; urinating after sexual intercourse; and avoiding spermicides. The strategy that results in the lowest antibiotic exposure is a short course of antibiotics for each episode of urinary tract infection, initiated as soon as clinical symptoms appear. Long-term antibiotic therapy is sometimes offered. According to one systematic review, women taking long-term prophylactic antibiotic therapy had about 6 times fewer clinical recurrences than with placebo. According to one randomised trial, 3 g of fosfomycin trometamol taken as a single dose every ten days reduced the frequency of recurrence, resulting in 0.14 episodes of infection per year on average versus about 3 episodes with placebo (p < 0.001). The amount of antibiotic used when fosfomycin trometamol is taken every 10 days for 6 months is equivalent to treatment of 18 acute episodes of cystitis. When cystitis appears to be associated with sexual intercourse, two small randomised trials suggest that routine postcoital antibiotic treatment is more effective than placebo and as effective as long-term antibiotic therapy. Adverse effects, some of which can be serious, depend on the antibiotic used. The development of resistance among enterobacteria is one argument for limiting the use of antibiotics, in order to preserve their efficacy in serious infections. In practice, the strategy that uses the fewest antibiotics is to treat each episode as soon as the first clinical symptoms appear. Cases in which the frequency of recurrence warrants regular antibiotic prophylaxis are rare. The optimal antibiotic regimen in these cases has not been determined, either in clinical trials or by consensus.

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