Cipro for UTIs becomes increasingly ineffective (and dangerous)

3 min read

Swallowing a pill

Common antibiotics like Cipro become increasingly ineffective (and problematic) as antibiotic resistance continues to develop

Nearly half of all women will experience a urinary tract infection during their lifetime. Normally, UTIs are treated with a 3-14 day course of antibiotics. With antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the rise, UTIs aren’t just pesky infections anymore—they’re life-threatening.

If left untreated, the UTIs can spread to the kidneys or the bloodstream. This article will give you run-down on antibiotic resistance, what that means for common antibiotics for UTIs, and which antibiotics to avoid.

Antibiotic resistance: eventually bacteria outsmart drugs

UTIs are becoming harder to treat, and Lilian Abbo, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Miami, sees that firsthand. She told WebMD the UTIs that won’t go away are treated with “broad-spectrum” antibiotics that also wipe out the good bacteria in your gut that help your immune system. She likened it to “using a grenade to a kill a mosquito...The mosquito became resistant to all the repellents and keeps biting you.” Here’s what you should know:

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed the Enterobacteriaceae family as a number one, critical priority for pathogen families resistant to antibiotics.

  • Escherichia coli or E.coli, the bacteria that causes 75% to 95% of UTIs, falls under the Enterobacteriaceae family.
  • Colistin is increasingly used as an antibiotic of last resort for the treatment of UTIs. However, resistance to colistin is emerging in India and China.  
  • Scientists believe this may have developed because farmers use colistin as a growth promoter in livestock. Researchers think the flies carried the bacteria containing genes for antibiotic resistance from farms to cities, where they transmitted the bacteria to humans.
  • Besides colistin, other common antibiotics for UTIs include Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Levaquin (levofloxacin) and Bactrim (also called Sulfatrim and Septra). However, these treatments are problematic.
  • This long-term study of E. coli taken from urine samples of U.S. patients found that the greatest increases in resistance between 2000 and 2010 were for the antibiotics Cipro (3% to 17%) and Bactrim (18% to 24%).

The Dangers of Cipro

In addition to E.coli  becoming more resistant to Cipro, Bactrim, and colistin, the Food and Drug Administration has assigned their strongest label warning to fluoroquinolones antibiotics. UTI antibiotics Levaquin (levofloxacin) and Cipro (ciprofloxacin) fall into the fluoroquinolones class. Using Levaquin or Cipro for UTIs can lead to disabling side effects. The damage can occur hours or weeks after consuming fluoroquinolone pills or injections. The FDA says that two or more serious side effects can occur simultaneously. About half of the patients who had serious side effects said the side effects began after the first or second dose. Cipro and Levaquin should not be prescribed unless no other option exists.

Serious side effects reported to the FDA include:

  • Ruptured tendons, pain, “pins and needles” sensations
  • Long-term pain
  • Pain, burning, tingling, numbness, weakness
  • Symptoms affecting tendons, muscles, and joints, including swelling, pain, and tendon rupture
  • Symptoms that lasted longer than a year
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Sensation changes or nerve damage in hands, feet, arms, or legs

Since most patients reported symptoms lasting longer than a year, it is possible that some of these effects will be permanent.

Which antibiotic is best for treating a UTI?

Your doctor shouldn’t prescribe you Levaquin or Cipro unless you have a serious infection, are allergic to other antibiotics or have no other choice of treatment. At your appointment, speak with your doctor to find other antibiotics that are right for you.

The bottom line:

E.coli continues to thrive as it wises up to antibiotics. UTIs that resist one or more types of antibiotics are becoming more common. Antibiotics Cipro and Bactrim, in particular, are becoming less effective. UTI patients’ well-being is in the hands of pharmaceutical companies, as they develop new antibiotics for the bacteria doing the most damage. It’s unclear how long these developments will take, but it won’t be any time soon. One way to stop UTIs is to prevent them, and Uqora is your first line of defense.


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