Topical estrogen treatments are an effective replacement for antibiotics in preventing urinary tract infections in older women, recently published research suggests.

Many postmenopausal women experience recurring UTIs. Antibiotics are often prescribed to prevent these infections, but this practice is leading to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. New research suggests the topical estrogen, which might come in the form of a vaginal cream or gel, is a better choice. 

A team from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute tested human cells from postmenopausal women who had used topical estrogen for two weeks, and also conducted studies using mice. They found the hormone stimulates antimicrobial substances in the bladder. It also closes gaps in cells lining the bladder, making it more difficult for bacteria to penetrate, and causes other beneficial changes on the cellular level.

The study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.