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Health Team

Study: Antibiotics Don’t Prevent UTIs in Children

Posted July 10, 2007 6:12 p.m. EDT
Updated July 10, 2007 7:54 p.m. EDT

If a young child gets recurrent urinary tract infections, pediatric experts recommend antibiotics all the time to stop the infections. However, a new study of children aged 6 and younger indicates that treatment may not be effective.

Virginia Summers said that her 2-year-old daughter, Lailani, has suffers from recurrent UTIs. Lailani takes medications, including antibiotics intended to prevent recurrent UTIs, said her mother.

“I'm not very happy about it, because she's on lots of medications. She's been on a lot of them since this has been going on, and she's only 2 years old, you know?” said Summers.

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that these antibiotics failed to prevent UTIs.

“In fact, when children did get those infections, they were more likely to be antibiotic resistant,” said Dr. Patrick Conway of the University of Pennsylvania.

Researchers said the antibiotics also didn’t work for children like Lailani who have bladder reflux.

“Bladder reflux is when urine comes up from the bladder toward the kidneys,” said Conway.

Pediatric experts thought children with bladder reflux had a higher risk of recurrent UTIs, but the study found no evidence for that.

The researchers used electronic health records to identify more than 600 children with their first UTIs. They then tracked the children for 13 months to record any recurrent infections.

Researchers concluded that antibiotics did not help to prevent UTIs in children with or without bladder reflux and that constant treatment with antibiotics may even have made infections down the road harder to treat.

“The results are concerning, and we want to obviously do the right thing and make sure we give kids medications that they need,” said Dr. Ron Keren, the study author and a pediatrician who has treated hundreds of children for UTIs.

Keren advises parents to first watch for symptoms of infection and then to treat the infection with antibiotics. Symptoms include pain during urination, frequency of urination and fever.

Summers said that such a treatment program for Lailani appeals to her.

“I'd be very happy to get her off the medications and rather wait for her to have something medically wrong with her, instead of treating her for something she doesn't have at this point,” said Summers.