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Urine Culture Testing in Community Nursing Homes: Gateway to Antibiotic Overprescribing

  • Philip D. Sloane (a1) (a2), Christine E. Kistler (a1) (a2), David Reed (a2), David J. Weber (a3) (a4), Kimberly Ward (a2) and Sheryl Zimmerman (a2) (a5)...



To describe current practice around urine testing and identify factors leading to overtreatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria in community nursing homes (NHs)


Observational study of a stratified random sample of NH patients who had urine cultures ordered in NHs within a 1-month study period


31 NHs in North Carolina


254 NH residents who had a urine culture ordered within the 1-month study period


We conducted an NH record audit of clinical and laboratory information during the 2 days before and 7 days after a urine culture was ordered. We compared these results with the urine antibiogram from the 31 NHs.


Empirical treatment was started in 30% of cases. When cultures were reported, previously untreated cases received antibiotics 89% of the time for colony counts of ≥100,000 CFU/mL and in 35% of cases with colony counts of 10,000–99,000 CFU/mL. Due to the high rate of prescribing when culture results returned, 74% of these patients ultimately received a full course of antibiotics. Treated and untreated patients did not significantly differ in temperature, frequency of urinary signs and symptoms, or presence of Loeb criteria for antibiotic initiation. Factors most commonly associated with urine culture ordering were acute mental status changes (32%); change in the urine color, odor, or sediment (17%); and dysuria (15%).


Urine cultures play a significant role in antibiotic overprescribing. Antibiotic stewardship efforts in NHs should include reduction in culture ordering for factors not associated with infection-related morbidity as well as more scrutiny of patient condition when results become available.

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2017;38:524–531


Corresponding author

*Address correspondence to Philip D. Sloane, 590 Manning Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27599 (


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