Model’s Death Focuses Attention on UTIs

You may have read about Mariana Bridi da Costa, the 20-year-old Brazilian model and beauty queen who died on Jan. 24.

Bridi made headlines when a drug-resistant urinary tract infection (UTI) led to septicemia (blood poisoning), forcing doctors to amputate her hands and feet in an effort to save her life. Shortly thereafter, she lost her battle against the virulent bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Bridi’s case serves as a sobering reminder, regardless of whether you seek traditional or alternative medical care: You need a prompt diagnosis at the first signs and symptoms of a UTI, as infection can quickly worsen and spread. Left untreated, a simple UTI can spell trouble for the bladder, kidneys and other organs. Your doctor must culture your urine to determine whether you have a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics.

“The recent death of this young woman is a tragic reminder of the importance of maintaining good urologic health,” says Sandra Vassos, executive director of the American Urological Association. “It is important to know the symptoms of a UTI and when to seek the advice of a urologist.”

Anatomy of a UTI

UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply in the urethra, whose lining becomes red and irritated. If the infection goes unchecked, bacteria can spread, moving through the urinary tract to the bladder (cystitis) and through the ureters into the kidneys (pyelonephritis).

Untreated kidney infections are extremely dangerous and can lead to life-threatening conditions like bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream) and septicemia, which claimed Bridi’s life. The latter causes inflammation throughout the body, which can result in decreased blood flow, decreased blood pressure, and possible organ failure and shock.

Signs and Symptoms

Frequent and sometimes painful urination is a common UTI symptom. Urine may also be cloudy or have a stronger odor than usual.

In some cases, you may see blood in the urine. It’s a common sign of infection, but it may also be caused by a more serious problem in the urinary tract. Prompt medical attention is critical if you spot blood.


To avoid a UTI, follow these guidelines from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:

  • Don’t delay or resist the urge to urinate.
  • Don’t rush while urinating. You need to empty your bladder completely.
  • Drink plenty of water each day.
  • Wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria around the anus from entering the vagina or urethra.
  • Take showers instead of tub baths.
  • Cleanse the genital area before sexual intercourse.
  • Avoid using feminine hygiene sprays and scented douches, which may irritate the urethra.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of this article, which examines what cranberry juice can—and can’t—do for UTIs.

Editor’s Note: For more health-related articles, please visit our Health Articles Archive and the Health Section of our Organic Blog.

Illustrations courtesy of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health

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  • Dentistry Roseville  January 25, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    How is UTI treated?

    UTIs are treated with antibacterial drugs. The choice of drug and length of treatment depend on the patient’s history and the urine tests that identify the offending bacteria. The sensitivity test is especially useful in helping the doctor select the most effective drug. The drugs most often used to treat routine, uncomplicated UTIs are trimethoprim (Trimpex), trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, Cotrim), amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox, Wymox), nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Furadantin), and ampicillin (Omnipen, Polycillin, Principen, Totacillin). A class of drugs called quinolones includes four drugs approved in recent years for treating UTI. These drugs include ofloxacin (Floxin), norfloxacin (Noroxin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and trovafloxin (Trovan).

    Often, a UTI can be cured with 1 or 2 days of treatment if the infection is not complicated by an obstruction or other disorder. Still, many doctors ask their patients to take antibiotics for a week or two to ensure that the infection has been cured. Single-dose treatment is not recommended for some groups of patients, for example, those who have delayed treatment or have signs of a kidney infection, patients with diabetes or structural abnormalities, or men who have prostate infections. Longer treatment is also needed by patients with infections caused by Mycoplasma or Chlamydia, which are usually treated with tetracycline, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMZ), or doxycycline. A followup urinalysis helps to confirm that the urinary tract is infection-free. It is important to take the full course of treatment because symptoms may disappear before the infection is fully cleared.

    Severely ill patients with kidney infections may be hospitalized until they can take fluids and needed drugs on their own. Kidney infections generally require several weeks of antibiotic treatment. Researchers at the University of Washington found that 2-week therapy with TMP/SMZ was as effective as 6 weeks of treatment with the same drug in women with kidney infections that did not involve an obstruction or nervous system disorder. In such cases, kidney infections rarely lead to kidney damage or kidney failure unless they go untreated.

    Various drugs are available to relieve the pain of a UTI. A heating pad may also help. Most doctors suggest that drinking plenty of water helps cleanse the urinary tract of bacteria. During treatment, it is best to avoid coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods. And one of the best things a smoker can do for his or her bladder is to quit smoking. Smoking is the major known cause of bladder cancer.

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