What is Bacteriuria?

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  • Written By: Helga George
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2019
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Bacteriuria indicates the presence of bacteria in urine. Normally, urine is sterile and does not contain any bacteria, so if it is present in a sample that has been captured cleanly, this is typically an indication of a urinary tract infection. Frequently, such an infection produces symptoms like burning when urinating and a frequent need to urinate. There are also cases of bacteriuria that lack symptoms. Many times these can be left untreated, but they are a health risk for people who have had kidney transplants or women who are pregnant.

Urinary tract infections can normally be detected by dipping a specialized testing stick into a urine sample, to test for the presence of nitrite. This can also be done by examining the urine under a microscope. The standard method to identify these infections is a urine test that involves plating out a bit of urine on a media known as agar. If there are bacteria present, they will grow and form colonies. If the number of colonies formed is greater than a certain threshold, a diagnosis of bacteriuria is confirmed.

The most common organism that causes a urinary tract infection is Escherichia coli. This bacterium is found in the human intestinal system and excreted in fecal matter. It is very easy for women to accidentally get E. coli contamination of the urinary tract.


The symptoms of bacteriuria include pain during urination, a frequent feeling of needing to urinate, and problems with urination. Often, this disease shows no symptoms and is then known as asymptomatic bacteriuria. It is more common in women than men, and can occur in people who are healthy. This condition is often seen in people who use urinary catheters. It frequently does no harm and does not usually need to be treated with antibiotics.

Many different types of bacteria, other than E coli, can be involved in cases of asymptomatic bacteriuria. Some of this variability can be due to whether the person is in a hospital or nursing home. For example, Pseudomonas aeruginosa can cause opportunistic infections, particularly among people who have urinary catheters in such a care facility.

People with certain pre-existing conditions are prone to develop kidney infections when they develop symptom-less urinary tract infections. Such conditions include diabetes, pregnancy, infected kidney stones, advanced age, and having had a kidney transplant. If discovered and treated early, the prognosis can be good. It is possible for the infection to lead to a loss of kidney function, particularly if one has had a kidney transplant.

Experts advise screening and treating pregnant women and those who have had kidney transplants. In other cases, there is no evidence that antibiotic treatment improves the outcome. Such treatment may also increase the risk of the spread of bacteria due to antibiotic resistance in the community.

It may be possible to help prevent urinary tract infections by drinking cranberry or blueberry juice. These fruit juices have been shown to prevent bacteria from binding to cells in the urinary tract. More recent research suggests that milk products that contain probiotic bacteria may also have such an effect.


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