Aged Care

UTIs in aged care facilities exhibit higher antibiotic resistance, study finds


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common health concern, affecting millions of individuals worldwide each year.

However, new research from UNSW Sydney sheds light on a troubling trend: UTIs caused by E. coli bacteria in aged care facilities exhibit higher levels of antibiotic resistance compared to cases from hospitals and the wider community.

Published in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases, this study not only highlights the challenges of treating UTIs but also underscores the urgent need for effective strategies to combat antibiotic resistance.

Led by Associate Professor Li Zhang from UNSW’s School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, the study aimed to investigate the impact of antibiotic resistance on UTI treatment. Collaborating with researchers and healthcare professionals, the team analysed over 775,000 UTI samples collected from various clinical settings across New South Wales, including aged care facilities, hospitals and community healthcare centres.

UTIs are bacterial infections that occur in the urinary tract and can lead to symptoms such as frequent urination, pain, and discomfort. While UTIs are prevalent among individuals of all ages, they are particularly common among women and older adults. Alex Young, a Ph.D. candidate at UNSW and co-author of the study, explains, “UTIs can have a huge impact of people’s health and quality of life, so it’s important that challenges like antibiotic resistance are addressed.”

Antimicrobial resistance poses a significant threat to modern medicine, limiting treatment options and increasing the risk of severe infections. In the case of UTIs, antibiotic resistance can complicate treatment and lead to delayed symptom resolution. Associate Professor Zhang emphasises the importance of continuously monitoring antibiotic resistance patterns to inform treatment guidelines and ensure effective patient care.

The study revealed alarmingly high levels of antibiotic resistance among uropathogens, particularly E. coli, the most common cause of UTIs. Resistance rates to trimethoprim, the standard antibiotic therapy for UTIs in Australia, exceeded 20% across all clinical settings, with the highest resistance observed in aged care facilities. However, the researchers also observed a promising trend: a gradual decrease in resistance rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, possibly due to improved infection control measures.

These findings have significant implications for clinicians and policymakers tasked with managing UTIs and combating antibiotic resistance. Alex Young emphasises the importance of reassessing treatment strategies and considering alternative antibiotics in light of rising resistance rates. Additionally, Associate Professor Zhang calls for further research to understand the origins of antibiotic-resistant strains and develop targeted interventions to mitigate their spread.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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