Bacteria in Urine

The presence of bacteria in the urine is medically referred to as bacteriuria. If left untreated, it can turn into a full-blown urinary tract infection. In this article, we will find out more about the circumstances under which one may develop this condition along with ways to treat and prevent the same.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Urine is a waste product which is produced by the kidneys during the process of filtration of blood. While the kidneys retain the essential salts and nutrients in the blood, they filter out the unwanted substances. These unwanted substances are carried from the kidneys through narrow tubes called ureters and stored as urine in the bladder. Urine is then flushed out from the body through a duct called urethra. Urine is usually sterile in nature, however, bacteria may sometimes travel to any part of the urinary tract. This may lead to the growth of bacteria. When bacterial growth is detected in a urine sample, one is diagnosed with bacteriuria. One is diagnosed with a urinary tract infection (UTI) when the number of bacteria found in urine is more than 100,000 pathogenic bacteria per milliliter of urine. These bacteria must be of a single species. The presence of many species or types of bacteria in the urine hints towards possible contamination of the urine sample. Under such circumstances, a fresh urine sample would be tested to formulate a proper diagnosis.
Doctors usually order a microbial culture of the urine sample along with urinalysis when the patients complain of pain or a burning sensation while urinating. A proper study of the urinalysis and urine culture results usually provides the doctors with information required for confirming the diagnosis of this condition. This condition could be symptomatic or asymptomatic. This condition is called asymptomatic when one does not experience symptoms of UTI despite the presence of a significantly large number of bacteria in the urinary tract. Asymptomatic bacteriuria is not really a cause of serious concern. However, it must not be taken casually in case of pregnant women, diabetics or anyone who has recently undergone a kidney transplant. In the absence of proper medical treatment, this condition may turn into an infection. If left untreated, infection in the urinary tract may have serious repercussions on one's health.
As mentioned earlier, urine normally does not contain a significant number of microbes. However, these might find a way into the urine under certain circumstances. Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecalis, Lactobacillus, Chlamydia and Klebsiella pneumoniae are some of the different types of bacteria that may find a way into urine. Since some of these bacteria inhabit the gastrointestinal tract, these can travel from the bowel to the urethra. Thus, a lack of personal hygiene might put one at an increased risk of developing such bacterial infections.
Women seem to be more susceptible to developing bladder infections than men. This is due to the short size of the urethra. Not only is this tube shorter, it is also quite close to the vagina as well as the anus. The change in the position of urinary tract during pregnancy can also give rise to growth of bacteria in the urine which is why women are often advised to get urine culture or urinalysis done during pregnancy. Vesicoureteral reflux is a medical condition that children may sometimes develop after an infection in the urinary tract. This condition is characterized by the back-flow of urine from the bladder to the ureters. The back-flow of urine is most likely to encourage the growth of bacteria in the urinary tract.
As far as men are concerned, in a majority of cases, an enlarged or an inflamed prostate is believed to be responsible for causing bladder infections. Incomplete emptying of the bladder or obstruction in the flow of urine due to large kidney stones could also give rise to the growth of bacteria in the urinary tract. Many a time, holding urine for prolonged periods of time can lead to the growth of bacteria. The use of bladder catheters might also make one susceptible to this condition.
Asymptomatic bacteriuria is believed to be a harmless condition that may resolve on its own. However, the same cannot be said about pregnant women, elderly or those who have a weak immune system. If not diagnosed or treated in the initial stages, bacterial overgrowth in the urinary tract can develop into an infection which in turn can affect the growth of the fetus in pregnant women. The bacteria can travel up to the kidneys and cause a kidney infection. People suffering from kidney stones are definitely at a great risk of developing this condition. Thus, one must seek medical help on experiencing the symptoms of kidney stones. As is the case with most bacterial infections, the treatment involves the use of antibiotics.
An infection affecting the urinary tract may give rise to symptoms such as pain during urination, frequent urge to urinate, burning sensation, feeling of pressure, foul urine odor or blood in urine. More often than not, antibiotics for bladder infection or urethritis are prescribed. These drugs can help to kill bacteria and prevent them from multiplying. Trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, amoxicillin, nitrofurantoin and ampicillin are some of the antibiotics that may be prescribed for treating an infection in the urinary tract. Quinolones refer to a class of drugs such as ofloxacin, norfloxacin, ciprofloxacin and trovafloxin. Though these drugs have proved to be quite effective in treating bacterial infections in the urinary tract, doctors may conduct a sensitivity test prior to prescribing any of these drugs.
If these drugs don't seem to help, doctors may conduct an intravenous pyelogram to observe the bladder, kidneys and the ureters. Other diagnostic tests may also be conducted if the patient has been suffering from recurrent infections in the urinary tract. These include an ultrasound and cystoscopy. Both of these tests would help the doctors discover any anatomical abnormalities or changes in the structures of the urinary system. Besides following drug therapy or other treatment options, the patient can also follow certain precautionary measures to prevent such infections in future. First of all, one must stay well-hydrated at all times. One also needs to empty the bladder completely at regular intervals. Since wearing synthetic tight-fitting undergarments can also encourage the growth of bacteria, it would be best to wear undergarments that are made from breathable fabrics such as cotton. Personal hygiene is another aspect that one cannot afford to ignore.
While asymptomatic bacteriuria may sometimes resolve on its own, an acute bacterial infection in the urinary tract can have serious repercussions on one's health. So, if your urine culture and urinalysis results are indicative of this condition, consult a urologist and follow your doctor's advice. Take all the precautionary measures, after all, prevention is better than cure.