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Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common and painful human illness that, fortunately, is rapidly responsive to modern antibiotic therapy. In the preantibiotic era, UTI caused significant morbidity. Hippocrates, writing about a disease that appears to have been acute cystitis, said that the illness could last for a year before either resolving or worsening to involve the kidneys. When chemotherapeutic agents used to treat UTI were introduced in the early twentieth century, they were relatively ineffective, and persistence of infection after 3 weeks of therapy was common. Nitrofurantoin, which became available in the 1950s, was the first tolerable and effective agent for the treatment of UTI.

Since the most common manifestation of UTI is acute cystitis and since acute cystitis is far more prevalent among women than among men, most clinical research on UTI has involved women. Many studies have enrolled women from college campuses or large health maintenance organizations in the United States. Therefore, when reviewing the literature and recommendations concerning UTI, clinicians must consider whether the findings are applicable to their patient populations.


UTI may be asymptomatic (subclinical infection) or symptomatic (disease). Thus, the term urinary tract infection encompasses a variety of clinical entities, including asymptomatic bacteriuria (ASB), cystitis, prostatitis, and pyelonephritis. The distinction between symptomatic UTI and ASB has major clinical implications. Both UTI and ASB connote the presence of bacteria in the urinary tract, usually accompanied by white blood cells and inflammatory cytokines in the urine. However, ASB occurs in the absence of symptoms attributable to the bacteria in the urinary tract and does not usually require treatment, while UTI has more typically been assumed to imply symptomatic disease that warrants antimicrobial therapy. Much of the literature concerning UTI, particularly catheter-associated infection, does not differentiate between UTI and ASB. In this chapter, the term UTI denotes symptomatic disease; cystitis, symptomatic infection of the bladder; and pyelonephritis, symptomatic infection of the kidneys. Uncomplicated UTI refers to acute cystitis or pyelonephritis in nonpregnant outpatient women without anatomic abnormalities or instrumentation of the urinary tract; the term complicated UTI encompasses all other types of UTI. Recurrent UTI is not necessarily complicated; individual episodes can be uncomplicated and treated as such. Catheter-associated bacteriuria can be either symptomatic (CAUTI) or asymptomatic.


Except among infants and the elderly, UTI occurs far more commonly in females than in males. During the neonatal period, the incidence of UTI is slightly higher among males than among females because male infants more commonly have congenital urinary tract anomalies. After 50 years of age, obstruction from prostatic hypertrophy becomes common in men, and the incidence of UTI is almost as high among men as among women. Between 1 year and ~50 years of age, UTI and recurrent UTI are predominantly diseases of females. The prevalence of ASB is ~5% among women between ages 20 and ...

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