The goal of the North American Urinary Tract Infection Collaborative Alliance (NAUTICA) study was to determine antibiotic susceptibility to commonly used agents for urinary tract infections against outpatient urinary isolates obtained in various geographic regions in the USA and Canada. Forty-one medical centres (30 from the USA and 11 from Canada) participated, with each centre submitting up to 50 consecutive outpatient midstream urine isolates. Isolates were identified to species level by the standard protocol of each laboratory. Susceptibility testing was determined using the National Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards (NCCLS) microdilution method. Resistance breakpoints used were those published by the NCCLS, including: ampicillin (resistant > or = 32 microg/mL), sulphamethoxazole/trimethoprim (SMX/TMP) (resistant > or = 4 microg/mL), nitrofurantoin (resistant > or = 128 microg/mL), ciprofloxacin (resistant > or = 4 microg/mL) and levofloxacin (resistant > or = 8 microg/mL). Of the 1990 isolates collected, 75.1% (1494) were collected from the USA and 24.9% (496) were collected from Canada. The mean age of the patients was 48.3 years (range 1 month to 99 years), and 79.5% and 20.5% of isolates were obtained from women and men, respectively. The most common organisms were Escherichia coli (57.5%), Klebsiella pneumoniae (12.4%), Enterococcus spp. (6.6%), Proteus mirabilis (5.4%), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (2.9%), Citrobacter spp. (2.7%), Staphylococcus aureus (2.2%), Enterobacter cloacae (1.9%), coagulase-negative staphylococci (1.3%), Staphylococcus saprophyticus (1.2%), Klebsiella spp. (1.2%), Enterobacter aerogenes (1.1%) and Streptococcus agalactiae (1.0%). Among all 1990 isolates, 45.9% were resistant to ampicillin, 20.4% to SMX/TMP, 14.3% to nitrofurantoin, 9.7% to ciprofloxacin and 8.1% to levofloxacin. Fluoroquinolone resistance was highest in patients > or = 65 years of age. For the 1142 E. coli isolates, resistance rates were: ampicillin 37.7%, SMX/TMP 21.3%, ciprofloxacin 5.5%, levofloxacin 5.1% and nitrofurantoin 1.1%. For all 1990 isolates and for the 1142 E. coli only, resistance rates were significantly higher in US compared with Canadian medical centres. This study reports higher rates of antibiotic resistance in US versus Canadian outpatient urinary isolates and demonstrates the continuing evolution of resistance to antimicrobial agents.