Can cranberry-lingonberry juice or a Lactobacillus GG drink prevent the recurrence of urinary tract infections?




British Medical Journal

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Cranberry Lactobacillus acidophilus Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
Professional Data: Cranberry Lactobacillus acidophilus Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)


Urinary tract infections are one of the most commonly occurring bacterial infections in medicine today and account for 7 million patient visits annually.1 It is estimated that 20% of women will suffer with symptoms of a urinary tract infection some time in their lives, with many having more than one.2 In addition to women, the elderly are also vulnerable to urinary tract infections due to incomplete emptying of the bladder. Infections of the urinary tract cover a wide variety of syndromes including urethritis, cystitis, prostatitis, and pyelonephritis.
Conventional treatment for urinary tract infections typically involves drug therapy with specific antibiotics. Natural therapies usually center around the use of Cranberry juice. Studies have shown that cranberry juice can keep bacteria from adhering to the cells that line the walls of the bladder.3 Other natural products are also used including the herb Uva ursi and active lactobacillus.
To determine which remedy was more effective in treating urinary tract infections, a group of researchers designed a study that would compare the efficacy of cranberry to lactobacillus. In this study, one hundred and fifty women with urinary tract infections (UTIs) were randomized to one of three groups in an open, controlled 12-month follow-up trial. Depending on the treatment option to which the women were randomized, they were given either 50 ml of cranberry-lingonberry juice concentrate daily for six months, 100 ml of Lactobacillus drink five days a week for one year, or no intervention at all. The outcome measurement was the first recurrence of a symptoms of the urinary tract infection by determining the level of bacteria found in a clean midstream urine sample.
Following 6 months of treatment, 16% in the cranberry group, 39% in the Lactobacillus group and 36% in the control group had at least one UTI recurrence. This demonstrated a significant 20% reduction for the absolute risk for a recurrent UTI in the cranberry group compared to the control group. The investigators concluded that "regular drinking of cranberry juice but not lactobacillus seems to reduce the recurrence of urinary tract infections." It is interesting to note that the recurrence rate in the Lactobacillus group was higher than the control group who had received no intervention at all.4


1. Bacheller CD, Bernstein JM. Urinary tract Infections. Med Clin North Am. 1997;81:719-729.
2. Plumridge RJ, Golledge CL. Treatment of urinary tract infection: Clinical and economic considerations. Pharmacoeconomics. 1996;9:295-306.
3. Zafriri D, et al. Inhibitory Activity of Cranberry Juice on Adherence of Type 1 and Type P Fimbriated Escherichia coli to Eucaryotic Cells. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1989;33(1):92-98.
4. Kontiokari T. Randomised trial of cranberry-lingonberry juice and Lactobacillus GG drink for the prevention of urinary tract infections in women. BMJ. Jun 2001;322(7302):1571.