Since more and more people are having concerns about antibiotic resistance, American doctors are increasingly prescribing newer, expensive, and stronger antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs).

However, since these strong medications are being overused, doctors and patients should explore the problems that come with antibiotic treatment, and only use the stronger drugs if is it critical, according to researchers from Oregon State University.

UTIs are one of the most common problems women face, and also some of the most often treated infections in outpatient settings. Cystitis, a urinary bladder inflammation, is the most common kind.

Cystitis normally results from E. coli bacteria that live in the gut, which sometimes can create an infection.

Although some people prefer home remedies to treat these infections, such as cranberry pills and juices, previous research indicated that antibiotics are better than nature’s cranberries.

According to the experts at OSU, 2% of all doctor’s visits by adult females between 1998 and 2009 were for this issue. Seventy-one percent of the time, antibiotics were given.

Overusing powerful medications, in particular quinolone antibiotics, make bacterial resistance to these drugs develop even faster, according to the team.

Antibiotic resistance, a natural evolutionary process, is a form of drug resistance where a microorganism survives even after contact with an antibiotic because it is adjusting to the medication. When it survives, it can pass on its resistant traits.

Although these concerns have gained worldwide importance with the harmful and potentially-fatal MRSA bacteria (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), scientists have said that resistance is common in several other bacteria.

“Many people have heard about the issues with MRSA and antibiotic resistance, but they don’t realize that some of our much more common and frequent infections raise the same concerns,” explained Jessina McGregor, an OSU assistant professor of pharmacy and expert in development of drug resistance.

The stronger drugs should be used as the second option when treating UTIs, the first being older, cheaper and more targeted drugs, she added.

McGregor revealed:

“This problem is getting worse, and it’s important that we not use the new and stronger drugs unless they are really needed. That’s in everyone’s best interests, both the patient and the community. So people should talk with their doctor about risks and benefits of different treatment options to find the antibiotic best suited for them, even if it is one of the older drugs.”

McGregor attended the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy where she presented her research, demonstrating that prescriptions for quinolones increased 10% in the latest years, but that other medications, which have the same success rates for treating cystitis, did not change.

“Because of higher levels of antibiotic resistance to older drugs in some regions, some doctors are now starting with what should be their second choice of antibiotic, not the first,” McGregor explained. “We need to conserve the effectiveness of all these anti-infective medications as best we can.”

In order to help physicians prescribe the most suitable antibiotic for each person, new instruments are being created by the team.

Doctor-patient communication is also very important, and any extra details regarding medication use in the past can be of assistance to doctors, as well as information on local community resistance levels.

McGregor concluded:

“Cystitis is incredibly common, but that’s part of the reason this is a concern. It’s one of the most common reasons that many women see a doctor and are prescribed an antibiotic. And any infection can be serious if we don’t have medications that can help stop it, which is why we need to preserve the effectiveness of all our antibiotics as long as we can.”

Written by Sarah Glynn