What Is Klebsiella Pneumoniae and How to Treat?

klebsiella pneumoniae

Klebsiella pneumoniae is a type of bacteria that lives and multiples in our feces and intestines. These don’t harm us but can be troublesome if they spread to other body parts. Here, we will tell you what this bacteria is all about and how we can be aware of what they do.

Klebsiella pneumoniae causes

It is a gram-negative bacterium and non-motile in nature and these facultative anaerobes shape like rods. They are members of the family endobacteria. These mostly cause nosocomial infection.

The bacteria usually infects the respiratory tract and cause deleterious effects. Mostly the people who have impaired defense systems in the respiratory tract can get it. Many times these also enter the respiratory tract via occupational exposures.

Klebsiella pneumoniae characteristics

  1. It is gram-negative
  2. Mostly rod-shaped
  3. Extremely virulent
  4. It is an encapsulated strain with the virulent factor coded in the capsule
  5. Highly resistant to a number of antibiotics. There are a large number of substances such a beta-lactamase present in the bacterial cell wall, that imparts resistivity to a large number of antibiotics. This makes the treatment highly difficult.

Spread of infection

The bacteria can infect the blood, lungs, urinary bladder, through an injured or wounded part. When an individual is perfectly fit, these bacteria do not exert a negative effect. The problem arises when your immune system completely collapses and you become prone to infections.

Person to person contact is the usual mode of disease transmission. So, if you are sitting right next to an infected person there is a high probability that you might acquire the disease. Statistics say that this type of pneumonia is the most commonly transmitted type. You can also get attacked when you visit a doctor’s chamber or hospitals. A healthy person is unlikely to get down with it but a prevalent weakness is likely to make you more vulnerable.

The worst part is such bacteria can also be present in ventilators and get transmitted from there. Apart from that, on using infected needles, intravenous catheters and ureter catheters these can spread rapidly. These are some of the reasons why hospitals try and maintain top-notch hygiene. When you visit a hospital to avail a medical service, you must be cautious about how hygienic they are.

Symptoms of klebsiella pneumoniae

Apart from causing infections they can also cause multiple other diseases like urinary and biliary tract infections. But the major disorder that klebsiella pneumoniae causes is pneumonia of course. More than 11 percent of acquired pneumonia have these bacteria as the causative agent.

Pneumoniae can lead to symptoms like fevers, chills, extreme headaches, and breathing problems. Pneumoniae occurs when klebsiella pneumoniae affects the respiratory tract. They potentially cause a treacherous respiratory tract infection and hence are responsible for the condition of klebsiella pneumoniae.

These bacteria are so harmful, that they also cause multiple other diseases on infecting the various part of the body. These are:

1. Urinary tract infection

Whenever the symptoms like irritation during urination, bloody urine or pelvic pain appear, there is a chance that the infection is caused by this specific bacterium. The K. Pneumoniae causes UTI and is extremely painful and discomforting. It exerts infection on the entire urinary tract including the bladder or ureters.

2. Blood infection

Once the strain of bacterium enters the blood, it causes direct infections in the bloodstream. Infections affect both elements of blood as well as the ground plasma. A blood infection elicited by K pneumoniae will lead to fevers, vomiting, nausea and at times shaking. These can be fatal if left untreated.

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3. Meningitis

When the bacteria infect the cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and spinal cord, it causes infections in the meninges of the brain. This is called meningitis. Meninges provide physical and biochemical protection to the brain. An infection in the meninges is one of the most dreaded and fatal diseases that one might suffer from. The common symptoms of meningitis are manifested in this infection too. These are extremely high fever, nausea, headache, stiff neck, and mental confusion.

4. Endophthalmitis

When the fluid and cornea of the eye get infected with this bacterium it leads to this infection. The vision is impaired, there is extreme irritation in the eye. The most common physical symptoms are redness and swelling. The cornea turns cloudy followed by yellow discharge from the eyes.

Susceptibility to infection

People who are most likely to get infected from this bacterium:

1. Aged people

With the advancement of the age, the immunity system starts to collapse. The spleen and lymph nodes diminish in size and their potency to combat infections also reduce. Hence, as your age advances, you become more likely to be a victim of K. Pneumoniae.

2. Ventilator users

If you are already down with some respiratory tract disorder and use ventilators, then there is a high probability that you might catch the infection. These bacteria stay and proliferate in the ventilators. On inhaling the air from the same, you are sure to catch an infection. Moreover, you are using a ventilator means that you are already suffering from a respiratory disorder and have diminished immunity in the respiratory tract. This enhances your chance of being infected.

3. Wounded

If you have a wound or injury at any place in your body, then that wounded site is the most vulnerable spot to catch this infection. The disruption of the protective mechanism and physical barrier of the body (at the site of the wound) leads to the entry of the bacteria into your body. Mostly, they infect the bloodstream when they get an entry to your body.

4. Antibiotic users

If you have been using antibiotics for a long time, probably you have developed a resistance to various antibiotic drugs. In that case, even more than the proportion of susceptibility to infections, what becomes difficult is treating the disease even if you are diagnosed.

5. Diabetic

If you are a diabetic patient then the infection will persist for a longer duration of time. This gives the bacteria enough scope to invade and proliferate in your body. So the chances of infection and high intensity of infection increase.

6. Ureter catheter user

This strain gains effective entry into your body and also spreads easily through medical devices like catheters. Thus, a person who uses it can be at high risk.

7. Organ transplantation

If you have undergone transplantation, then there are high chances of acquiring a potential infection. Firstly, during transplantation surgery, the bacterium might enter the body through the various open areas. Moreover, during any transplantation surgery, doctors administer effective immunosuppressants. This way there are little chances to develop a graft rejection.

We have already discussed how k. pneumoniae takes advantage of the body’s reduced immunity to gain entry into the body. Under such circumstances, it is not unusual to be down with an infection.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder

The most common way that k. pneumoniae can enter your body is through the respiratory tract, as these bacteria remain in the air. If you are a patient with COPD, then immunity at the respiratory level is highly unsatisfactory which leads to increased chances of infection.

Klebsiella pneumoniae diagnosis

The normal laboratory tests which can be done to detect pneumonia infections are:

Total blood count or complete blood count

This will give a complete and fair idea about the number of blood cells of each type that is present in the blood. This gives the first preliminary information about blood cell status. Doctors use this as a stepping stone towards a diagnosis of the infection.

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Sputum culture

Since the pneumonia infection affects the lungs, the best way to get a vivid idea about the infection is by testing a sputum sample. Sputum is basically the mucus part ejected while coughing. It will contain strains of bacteria if there is an infection.

When any prevalent bacteria are found in the sample, they can be cultured under laboratory conditions and diagnosed properly. K. Pneumonia grows under normal well-defined media and hence with proper culture, the infection can be easily traced out. Timely sputum testing can help to start medication early to prevent the further spread.

Chest radiography

By going through X rays or Gamma rays, an examiner can get a vivid picture of the chest. With this picture, practitioners can develop a fair idea of how far has the infection spread or the level of damage. Though in case of this type of infection that we are discussing, radiography always remains as a secondary diagnosis. Once the doctor figures out the infection, he will find the extent of its spread.

CT scan

Even if radiography results prove to be unsatisfactory, that is really rare, then CT scan can be opted for. This is the most advanced method and also quite expensive. But in cases which are beyond the normal level, CT scan gives the fairest idea related to the extent of damage caused. This works only in special cases. This is not really a primary diagnostic test but way ahead in terms of advancements. CT scan helps decide the pattern of medications and subsequent treatment processes that you can follow for the treatment.


You need medication and clinical processes to heal the condition. The most common types of antibiotics for you are Aminoglycosides and cephalosporins. These can treat the infection and cure you fast. You cannot use Ampicillin as it includes beta-lactamase, and it will not help the condition.

Treating this bacterial infection is a mammoth challenge. The reason behind this is that the number of antibiotics to which this bacterium is resistant is multiple. Amoxicillin and ceftazidime are also the major types of antibiotics to which this strain is resistant. There are lots of other resistant strains emerging, which is making the treatment process far more complicated than ever before.

Prevention is better than cure

You can follow some simple ways and practices to make sure that you don’t get infected with k. pneumoniae:

  • Maintaining hygiene is necessary
  • Before and after eating food, you must wash your hands with a handwash
  • As we have discussed earlier, this infection mostly spreads from hospitals. So, whenever you visit a hospital or clinic, make sure that you practice stringent hygiene practices.
  • Cover your nose while sneezing or coughing. Also, whenever you are in any community space, make sure that you don’t inhale the cough or sneezed drops from others because you don’t know who is down with an infection
  • You need to avoid infected needles or infected ureter catheters. Before using any such devices take extreme precautions regarding the sterility of such products
  • Be ultra-causative when you are using ventilators. Ventilators play a high role in transferring the bacterium. So, while using ventilators, be extra cautious
  • Even after you touch the bed railings, telephones, or other things in a hospital, wash your hands properly
  • Before making food, wash your hands properly so that you don’t get infected with a GI tract infection.

Final thoughts

As humans, any one of use can have bacteria causing illnesses in our body. It is important for us to recognize the symptoms that tell us what we are facing. When we can detect the condition, treating it becomes quick and simple. If you are facing a condition like this, you must consult the doctor and go through proper medications.

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