Rural-urban differences in antibiotic prescribing for uncomplicated urinary tract infection

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2021 Dec;42(12):1437-1444. doi: 10.1017/ice.2021.21. Epub 2021 Feb 24.


Objective: To examine rural-urban differences in temporal trends and risk of inappropriate antibiotic use by agent and duration among women with uncomplicated urinary tract infection (UTI).

Design: Observational cohort study.

Methods: Using the IBM MarketScan Commercial Database (2010-2015), we identified US commercially insured women aged 18-44 years coded for uncomplicated UTI and prescribed an oral antibiotic agent. We classified antibiotic agents and durations as appropriate versus inappropriate based on clinical guidelines. Rural-urban status was defined by residence in a metropolitan statistical area. We used modified Poisson regression to determine the association between rural-urban status and inappropriate antibiotic receipt, accounting for patient- and provider-level characteristics. We used multivariable logistic regression to estimate trends in antibiotic use by rural-urban status.

Results: Of 670,450 women with uncomplicated UTI, a large proportion received antibiotic prescriptions for inappropriate agents (46.7%) or durations (76.1%). Compared to urban women, rural women were more likely to receive prescriptions with inappropriately long durations (adjusted risk ratio 1.10, 95% CI, 1.10-1.10), which was consistent across subgroups. From 2011 to 2015, there was slight decline in the quarterly proportion of patients who received inappropriate agents (48.5% to 43.7%) and durations (78.3% to 73.4%). Rural-urban differences varied over time by agent (duration outcome only), geographic region, and provider specialty.

Conclusions: Inappropriate antibiotic prescribing is quite common for the treatment of uncomplicated UTI. Rural women are more likely to receive inappropriately long antibiotic durations. Antimicrobial stewardship interventions are needed to improve outpatient UTI antibiotic prescribing and to reduce unnecessary exposure to antibiotics, particularly in rural settings.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antimicrobial Stewardship*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Urinary Tract Infections* / drug therapy
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents