Bad News Alert! UTIs Are Getting Harder to Treat

Gird your loins…maybe literally


The first time I had sex, I got a urinary tract infection and was pretty sure I was about to die. The fun twist was I wasn’t! The dark twist was I’d become intimately familiar with those three little words over the next decade.

Here’s the worst twist, though: Dangerous bacteria adapt to our antibiotics so they can continue to haunt our bodies after we try to kill them. This is unacceptable cockroach-like behavior, if you ask me, and it’s why every so often we have to counter-adapt with new drugs. As antibiotic use increases over time — or is administered improperly — so does the urgency for new drug development. This week the World Health Organization did something it’s never done before: they released a list of the top bacteria that require new antibiotics.

Topping the list is Escherichia coli also known as E. coli also known as the little fuckers behind loads of food recalls, UTIs and tons of other gut issues. When these bacteria go untreated in the human body, they can cause, “blood and lung infections that are often fatal.” According to New ScientistE. coli take a heavy toll on hospitals and nursing homes.

In the case of UTIs, the news that E. coli treatment is getting less effective is particularly worrisome. They are one of the most common infections that require antibiotics in the world, with half of women having at least one over the course of their lives. Or just me having like a million of them over the course of my one life (I swear to G they aren’t my fault, I have a short urethra!).

“Functioning antibiotics make UTIs only a minor annoyance,” reports New Scientist, “but if antibiotics fail, the infection can spread into the kidneys and bloodstream, and even become life-threatening.”

The good news is, our bodies should not become resistant to these bacteria as long as we use them as prescribed. Only in some cases is this not true, like when antibiotics are used as “growth promotors in livestock” (barf), thus inhabiting humans with antibiotics we are not supposed to be taking. Nightmare. This is why FDA laws and regulations around antibiotic use on farms has tightened in the last decade.

The problem is antibiotics are not huge moneymakers for drug companies (as compared to drugs we take over longer periods) and thus their development is not a huge priority (barf again). Head of Health Systems and Innovations at the WHO Marie-Paule Kieny says this is unacceptable. “[P]reventing antibiotic resistance through proper use of existing drugs is still vital – but we also really need to invent some new ones,” she says.

REMINDERS FOR YOUR FRIDAY: Take your antibiotics only when (and exactly as) prescribed, pay attention to what’s going on with the FDA so you can cast your vote with your wallet and on the ballet whenever possible and, most urgently, pee after sex!!!

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  • Sabletoothtigre

    As someone who also suffers from semi-frequent UTIs (even tho I do all the necessary preventative steps), D-Mannose powder/capsules + cranberry tablets are a GAME CHANGER. Take the appropriate dose as soon as you feel that initial twinge of “oh shit am I getting a UTI I better not be getting another fucking UTI” and drink lots of water and it thwarts that shit from the start.
    Cranberry/vit-C makes your bladder acidic AKA “unfriendly” for bacteria and the D-mannose makes it very difficult for bacteria to stick to the walls of your bladder/urethra so you can more quickly flush it out.

    I mean, I say this as a civilian, not a doctor, and first-person source of “this is a thing that worked for me.” So do with that information what you will.

    • Haley Nahman

      INTERESTING! I actually haven’t had an issue with a REAL UTI in forever, I just have the “oh shit it might be coming” feeling all the time and guzzle water and it doesn’t become a thing. Noting this JIC tho!!

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    • Fezzers

      I’ll back this up with an “it worked for me” as well. I take a syrup with D-Mannose and cranberry. It appears from studies that I have read that there is some promising evidence that d-mannose may be beneficial for preventing UTIs (cranberry has mixed study results).

    • But I’m a Cheerleader

      I came here to say d-mannose too! It’s amazing, and unfortunate more people don’t know about it. For those that don’t, it’s a simple sugar found in cranberries, but in it’s extracted form you can take more, plus it goes through the system fast enough it isn’t really metabolized. What it does is bind with the bacteria and when you pee, flushes it out. Life changing for those who suffer from utis.

  • Shelby

    Chronic UTI sufferers unite! I’ve had something like seven UTIs over the course of the past year, one of which landed me in the ER for a kidney infection. I started seeing a urologist at NYU who specializes in UTIs (if the waiting room is any indication, I’m his youngest patient by, like, fifty years), and he’s got me on this stupid-expensive cranberry supplement, Ellura, that does seem to be helping. I know the use of cranberry products for UTIs has come under scrutiny in recent months, but it (and D-mannose powder) do seem to be working in the way of prevention (not treatment! can’t emphasize that point enough). Hope you’ve managed to find something that works for you! It really is the worst, most frustrating kind of pain.

  • This is so important! I once wasn’t given a full course of antibiotics from my doctor and my UTI came back and quickly developed into a severe kidney infection that had me on bed rest. Definitely don’t abuse antibiotics but when you do have to take them, make sure you complete the course! I learned the very painful way – and do NOT recommend.

  • Lisa

    probiotics, water, cranberry juice. make these your friends.

  • Stephanie Landry

    D mannose is 100% effective. Also try not to ever take the antibiotic called CIPRO. It’s very toxic, and should be banned

    • Stephanie Landry

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  • CM

    I think there’s a typo: “The good news is, our bodies should not become resistant to these bacteria as long as we use them as prescribed.”

    Should say: “The good news is, our bodies should not become resistant to these ANTIBIOTICS as long as we use them as prescribed.”

    But actually, it’s not our bodies that are resisting the antibiotics, but the bacteria that the antibiotics are being intended to kill…