Up to 30% of mothers develop acute pyelonephritis if asymptomatic bacteriuria is untreated. Asymptomatic bacteriuria may have a role in preterm birth or it may be a marker for low socioeconomic status which is associated with low birth weight.
The objective of this review was to assess the effect of antibiotic treatment for asymptomatic bacteriuria on persistent bacteriuria during pregnancy, the risk of preterm delivery, and the development of pyelonephritis.
I searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register. Date of last search: December 2000.
Randomised trials comparing antibiotic treatment with placebo or no treatment in pregnant women with asymptomatic bacteriuria found on antenatal screening.
Data collection and analysis
Trial quality was assessed.
Fourteen studies were included. Overall the study quality was not strong. Antibiotic treatment compared to placebo or no treatment was effective in clearing asymptomatic bacteriuria (odds ratio 0.07, 95% confidence interval 0.05 to 0.10). The incidence of pyelonephritis was reduced (odds ratio 0.24, 95% confidence interval 0.19 to 0.32). Antibiotic treatment was also associated with a reduction in the incidence of preterm delivery or low birth weight babies (odds ratio 0.60, 95% confidence interval 0.45 to 0.80).
Antibiotic treatment is effective in reducing the risk of pyelonephritis in pregnancy. An apparent reduction in preterm delivery is consistent with current theories about the role of infection in preterm birth, but this association should be interpreted with caution.