Cranberry extract near match for antibiotic UTI potential - study

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Urinary tract infection

A cranberry extract may play some role in supplementing use of the antibiotic Trimethoprim for prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in older women, according to a new study.

In findings published online in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy,​ Trimethoprim, which researchers say has been linked to a number of side affects in patients, was found to have a ‘limited’ advantage in preventing UTI development over cranberry extracts.

The randomised trial, which was overseen by researchers from Ninewells Hospital and Medical School at the University of Dundee, ​suggests that some female patients can review existing methods for treating UTIs.

“Our findings will allow older women with recurrent UTIs to weigh up with their clinicians the inherent attractions of a cheap, natural product like cranberry extract whose use does not carry the risk of antimicrobial resistance or super-infection with Clostridium difficile​ or fungi,”​ claimed the researchers.

Cranberries have a long history of use in the prevention and alleviation of UTIs, and a body of scientific evidence suggests that its action is due to the fruit's polyphenols.

It is these antioxidants that are thought to prevent disease-causing organisms from sticking to the walls of the tract, flushing them out of the body instead.


In the latest attempt’s to find a link between cranberry and potential health benefits, 137 women who had undergone two or more antibiotic treatments in the previous twelve months were selected for the trial.

These respondents were then randomised to receive either 500mg of the Cran-Max cranberry extract - produced by the UK's Buckton Scott Health Products - or 100mg of trimethoprim for 6 months.

The time of first recurrence of a UTI was not found to be significantly different between both treatment groups, according to the researchers.

“Median time to recurrence of UTI was 84.5 days for the cranberry group and 91 days for the trimethoprim group,” ​stated the researchers.


Lead researcher Professor Marion McMurdo told that the study focused on trimethoprim due to its wide use in prevention of UTIs.

McMurdo added that although other antibiotics could be used as part of potential treatment, these products tended to lead to a great number of side effects in patients.

The study, which the reporters say was funded through an independent charitable foundation, does not have any conflict of interests with cranberry suppliers. Buckton Scott Health Products supplied Cran-Max free of charge.

Source: the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

Published online, doi:10.1093/jac/dkn489

“Cranberry or trimethoprim for the prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections? A randomized controlled trial in older women”

M. McMurdo, I Argo, G Phillips, F Daly and P. Davey

This article was updated on 5 January 2009.

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