Asymptomatic bacteriuria, also called asymptomatic urinary infection, is a common finding in healthy women, and in women and men with abnormalities of the genitourinary tract. The characterization and introduction of the quantitative urine culture in the 1950s first allowed the reliable recognition of asymptomatic bacteriuria. The observations that a substantial proportion of patients with chronic pyelonephritis at autopsy had no history of symptomatic urinary infection, and the high frequency of pyelonephritis observed in pregnant women with untreated asymptomatic bacteriuria, supported a conclusion that asymptomatic bacteriuria was harmful. Subsequent screening and long term follow-up programs for asymptomatic bacteriuria in schoolgirls and women reported an increased frequency of symptomatic urinary tract infection for subjects with asymptomatic bacteriuria, but no increased morbidity from renal failure or hypertension, or increased mortality. Treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria did not decrease the frequency of symptomatic infection. Prospective, randomized, comparative trials enrolling premenopausal women, children, elderly populations, patients with long term catheters, and diabetic patients consistently report no benefits with antimicrobial treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria, and some evidence of harm. Several studies have also reported that antimicrobial treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria increases the short term risk of pyelonephritis. Current investigations are exploring the potential therapeutic intervention of establishing asymptomatic bacteriuria with an avirulent Escherichia coli
strain to prevent symptomatic urinary tract infection for selected patients.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited