Improved treatment for recurring urinary tract infections could be on the horizon thanks to new research findings from a University of Queensland and University of Utah study. The news is especially promising for the senior care population, where UTIs remain the most common bacterial infection. 

Researchers followed a long-term recurrent UTI sufferer who had been UTI-free for only nine months over a 45-year period. She took nearly every type of antibiotic, including some of the strongest available, but the bacteria were never eradicated. The researchers conducted a genetic analysis and discovered the woman’s repeated infections came from a single bacterial source in the body — a persistent “reservoir” of E. coli

“These E. coli were the same as those that caused the recurring UTI, proving that the woman had a persistent reservoir of E. coli residing in her intestine — the source of her infections,” one of the researchers noted. Because bacteria can live in the intestines for long periods, even after antibiotic treatment, he says, “It’s time to consider using antibiotics that will not just treat the UTI in the bladder, but also eliminate the infection reservoir in the intestine that seeds recurrent infection of the bladder.”

UTIs in the elderly can contribute to confusion, agitation, withdrawal, falls, secondary infection and even death. The infections also contribute to higher hospital admissions and increased length of stay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.