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Asymptomatic bacteriuria

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 17, 2023.

What is asymptomatic bacteriuria?

Harvard Health Publishing

When a significant number of bacteria show up in the urine, this is called "bacteriuria." Finding bacteria in the urine can mean there is an infection somewhere in the urinary tract. The urinary tract is the system that includes: 

Asymptomatic bacteriuria

In asymptomatic bacteriuria, large numbers of bacteria are present in the urine. However, the person has no symptoms of a urinary tract infection (asymptomatic means without symptoms). It is not clear why the bacteria don't cause symptoms. It may be that asymptomatic bacteriuria is caused by weaker (less "virulent") bacteria. The condition does not always need to be treated.

Asymptomatic bacteriuria is most common in:

Symptoms of asymptomatic bacteriuria

Asymptomatic bacteriuria does not cause any symptoms.

Diagnosing asymptomatic bacteriuria

Your doctor will ask you to provide a clean-catch urine sample. You will be given a sterile container and instructions on how to clean the area around the urethra. Do not touch inside the container.

The urine sample will be sent to the laboratory where a urine culture is performed. The urine culture will determine if there are bacteria in your urine.

The diagnosis of asymptomatic bacteriuria requires:

Expected duration of asymptomatic bacteriuria

In some people, bacteria are present in the urine before symptoms of a urinary tract infection develop. If this occurs, your doctor will advise starting an antibiotic if symptoms arise. In other people, asymptomatic bacteriuria can continue indefinitely without causing obvious illness or discomfort.

Preventing asymptomatic bacteriuria

You may help prevent bacteriuria by drinking several glasses of water each day. This may discourage the growth of bacteria by flushing out your urinary tract, although this has not been proven. Drinking cranberry juice every day might also slow the growth of bacteria. But this also has not been definitively shown through medical studies.

To prevent the spread of intestinal bacteria from the rectum to the urinary tract, women should always wipe toilet tissue from front to back after having a bowel movement.

Treating asymptomatic bacteriuria

Antibiotic treatment for asymptomatic bacteriuria is recommended for the following groups:

When to call a professional

If you have asymptomatic bacteriuria, call your doctor if you


For most people, asymptomatic bacteriuria does not cause any problems and treatment is not necessary. If you do develop a urinary tract infection, prompt treatment with antibiotics will almost always take care of it.

Additional info

National Kidney Foundation

American Urological Association

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.