When should I consider treating my hospitalized patients with asymptomatic bacteruria (ASB)?

The great majority of hospitalized patients with ASB do not need treatment with antibiotics.

In fact, there are only a couple of conditions for which treatment of ASB is indicated:  pregnant women (due to risk of pyelonephritis and low-birth infants/pre-term delivery) and before  GU instrumentation, such as transurethral resection of the prostate or other GU procedures for which mucosal bleeding is anticipated (1).  

So for the great majority of our hospitalized patients, including the elderly, diabetic women, institutionalized residents of long-term facilities, and spinal cord injury patients treatment of ASB is not indicated.  Even in the case of renal transplant patients, supportive evidence for the  use of prophylactic antibiotics in ASB is so far lacking (2).  

The estimated prevalence of ASB varies widely in the population,  with rates of 15-20% among community-dwelling women > 70 yrs of age, and 5-10% for men>65 yrs for community-dwelling men. In long-term care facility residents, 25-50% of women, 15-40% of men, and 100% of those with chronic indwelling catheters have ASB (3).  

So keep these rates in mind before attributing patient’s symptoms to ASB (ie, patient’s presentation may have nothing to do with urine findings).  It’s also worth emphasizing that pyuria accompanying ASB is not an indication for treatment.

Liked this post? Download the app on your smart phone and sign up below to catch future pearls right into your inbox, all for free!

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.



1. Nicolle LE, Bradley S, Colgan R, et al. Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria in adults. Clin Infect Dis 2005;40:643-54.  https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/40/5/643/363229

2. Coussement J, Abramowicz D. Should we treat asymptomatic bacteriuria after renal transplantation? Nephrol Dial Transplant 2013;0:1-3. https://academic.oup.com/ndt/article/29/2/260/1913512

3. Nicolle LE. Asymptomatic bacteriuria in older adults. Geriatrics & Aging 2003;6:24-28. https://www.healthplexus.net/files/content/2003/October/0609bacteriuria.pdf


Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

When should I consider treating my hospitalized patients with asymptomatic bacteruria (ASB)?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.