Antibiotics are designed to fight a multitude of bacterial infections.  But some infections -- such as those in the urinary tract -- have become resistant to many antibiotics.  VOA's Melinda Smith reports on a recent study that shows these drugs are not as powerful as they should be.

Little Lailani Summers has frequently suffered from urinary tract infections.  Her mother, Virginia Summers, says the child has been treated with a number of medications, including antibiotics. "I?m not very happy about it because she's on lots of medications.  She's been on a lot of them since this has been going on and she's only two years old, you know."

Doctors say urinary tract infections are among the most common problems they see in small children.  The American Academy of Family Physicians says at least seven percent of girls and two percent of boys will have urinary tract infection by six years of age.  The first symptom is often fever. 

Antibiotics have been frequently used to prevent them from reoccurring.  But a University of Pennsylvania review of almost 75,000 children treated at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that when antibiotics were used daily to prevent future infections, the antibiotics did not help and may have done harm. 

Dr. Patrick Conway was the primary investigator of the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Antibiotics did not prevent recurrent urinary tract infections and, in fact, when children did get those infections they were more likely be antibiotic resistant."

Children who have bladder reflux -- a condition that occurs when urine flows back into the ureter or kidney -- have been thought to be at greater risk for recurrent urinary tract infections.  But Dr. Conway says that turned out not to be the case for many children in the study. "The children with bladder reflux were not at increased risk of getting recurrent urinary tract infection."

So, what is the best course of treatment when antibiotics do not work?  Dr. Ron Keren has treated many children with urinary tract infections.  Until further studies are made, he advises parents to watch their children for further symptoms before giving antibiotics. "The results are concerning and we want to obviously do the right thing and make sure we give kids medications that they need."

Lailani's mother Virginia Summers agrees with that recommendation. She says,  "I would be very happy to get her off the medications and rather wait for her to have something medically wrong with her instead of treating her for something she does not have at that point."