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Urinary tract infections in pregnancy

Ovalle, Alfredo; Levancini, Marco

Review Article

Urinary tract infections are very common during pregnancy. Escherichia coli is the most common pathogen isolated from pregnant women. Ampicillin should not be used because of its high resistance to Escherichia coli. Pyelonephritis can cause morbidity and can be life-threatening to both mother and fetus. Second and third-generation cephalosporins are recommended for treatment, administered initially intravenously during hospitalization. Cultures and the study of virulence factors of uropathogenic Escherichia coli are recommended for the adequate management of pyelonephritis. The lower genital tract infection associated with pyelonephritis is responsible for the failure of antibiotic treatment. Asymptomatic bacteriuria can evolve into cystitis or pyelonephritis. All pregnant women should be routinely screened for bacteriuria using urine culture, and should be treated with nitrofurantoin, sulfixosazole or first-generation cephalosporins. Recurrent urinary infection should be treated with prophylactic antibiotics. Pregnant women who develop urinary tract infections with group B streptococcal infection should be treated with prophylactic antibiotics during labour to prevent neonatal sepsis. Preterm delivery is frequent. Evidence suggests that infection plays a role in the pathogenesis of preterm labour. Experimental models in pregnant mice support the theory that Escherichia coli propagated by the transplacental route, involving bacterial adhesins, induces preterm delivery, but this has not been demonstrated in humans. Ascending lower genital tract infections are the most probable cause of preterm delivery, but this remains to be proved.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, San Borja Arriarán Clinical Hospital, Santiago, Chile

Correspondence to Dr Alfredo Ovalle Salas, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, San Borja Arriarán Clinical Hospital, Santiago, Chile. Tel: +56 2 242 6944; fax: +56 2 242 232 7565; e-mail:

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.