Klebsiella Pneumoniae: A Superbug Found in Hospitals

klebsiella pneumoniae

Klebsiella pneumoniae is bacterial pneumonia that is caused by infection with Klebsiella pneumonia bacterium. This bacteria usually live in the intestine and human feces. They are harmless bacteria’s when they are in the intestines. But as soon as they spread to other parts of the body they can be dangerous. The chances of getting this infection are more if you are sick. This infection mainly infects your brain, bladder, and lungs. The location of this infection helps in determining the symptoms and treatment of this infection. People with a weak immune system or patients who have been on medication for a long time are more prone to this infection. Klebsiella pneumoniae can be harmful if you are already suffering from any ailment.

Klebsiella pneumoniae causes

The causes a range of ailments such as infections to the wounds they may lead to other health issues. Healthy individuals rarely catch infections as their immune systems are strong enough to resist the germs. But infections like these are more likely to occur if you are suffering from ailments such as diabetes, lung disease, and cancer. Taking medicines for a long period of going through treatment may also raise the risk of getting this infection.

In most cases, this infection occurs in a hospital setting where there are a majority of sick people. This infection does not spread through the air. A person may get this infection by touching a cut on the skin. This bacteria is not airborne, so one cannot contact this infection by breathing the same air as an infected individual. This infection can also occur after using contaminated medical equipment. These germs can also spread when they get on certain medical devices, such as IV catheters, endotracheal tubes, and urinary catheters. Taking antibiotics for a long time can also increase the risk of getting this infection.

What happens if you get infected?

If you are getting this infection outside the hospital, it may lead to pneumonia, sometimes it may result in bronchitis. This further may lead to a lung abscess, empyma, and pleural adhesions.

The three species in the genus klebsiella are associated with humans are; klebsiella ozaenae, klebsiella rhinosceleromatis and granulomatis. The oxytoca and rhinoscleromatis are nonfermenting subspecies that have clinical manifestations.

The klebsiella pneumonia is responsible for septicemia, urinary tract infection and neonatal. The Klebsiella ozaenae results in atrophic rhinitis ozena and klebsiella rhinooscleromatis. These sub-species that cause respiratory tract infections are different and are poisonous.

The klebsiella pneumonia is a pathogen that results in serious infections such as septicemia, pneumonia and soft tissue infection. This species can accumulate and transfer drug-resistance determinants. The treatment of extended-spectrum ?-lactamase (ESBL). The treatment for this infection is difficult as the organisms are resistant to other antibiotics. The pathogenicity of this infection is multifactorial that includes urease, outer-membrane proteins, and biofilms.

Men with impaired respiratory defenses, including diabetics and liver disorders are more prone to this infection.

Symptoms of Klebsiella pneumonia

The symptoms of this infection differ depending on the location and are similar to symptoms of the same diseases that are caused by microbes. For example, meningitis caused by klebsiella pneumonia infections produces symptoms such as fever, stiffness in the neck and sensitivity to bright lights. Bloodstream infections caused by Klebsiella causes fever, rashes and mental health status. Each infection has different symptoms such as:


This infection causes bacterial pneumonia. It occurs when the bacteria enter the respiratory tract. Community-acquired pneumonia occurs when you get an infection outside the hospital. While, hospital-acquired pneumonia occurs when you get an infection at a hospital. The symptoms of pneumonia are fever, cough and chest congestion.

Urinary tract infection

If this infection occurs in the urinary tract, it causes a urinary tract infection(UTI). This infection can also occur after taking a urinary catheter for a longer period. It is very common in older women. You might experience the following symptoms:

  • Increased urine output
  • Pain and burning sensation while urinating
  • Pain in the back
  • Getting blood while urinating
  • The strong smell while urinating
  • Pain in the lower abdomen

If you are having urinary tract infection (UTI) in the kidneys, you may experience fever, nausea, and vomiting. The Klebsiella pneumoniae is acquired in hospitals, mainly in some surgical services and intensive care center.

Skin and soft tissue infection

If this infection enters through a break in the skin, it can result in a severe infection. Klebsiella penumoniae includes cellulitis and myositis. You might experience symptoms such as fever, swelling, and fatigue.


This infection causes bacterial meningitis or inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain. Meningitis mainly occurs when the bacteria enters the meninges. It causes the onset of fever, headache, and stiffness in the neck. Symptoms of meningitis are vomiting, nausea and confusion.

Endophthalmitis: When klebsiella pneumonia spreads to the eye, it can cause endophthalmitis. This condition causes inflammation in the white part of the eye. You may experience redness in the eyes, blurred vision and white and yellow discharge.

Pyogenic liver abscess: When Klebsiella pneumoniae infects the liver, it causes a pyogenic liver abscess. It mainly affects diabetics or who have been consuming antibiotics for the long term. It results in the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Infection in the blood

When this infection enters your blood, it causes bacteremia in which the bloodstream is directly affected. In secondary bacteremia, this infection spreads to the blood from infection to elsewhere in the body. You might experience symptoms such as shivering, chills, and fever.

Klebsiella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. This bacteria produces an enzyme known as carbapenemase, then it might not work to kill the bacteria and treat this infection. This bacteria is the species Eneterbacteriaceae that can later develop resistance against carbapenem.

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae is a family of germs that is difficult to treat as they develop high resistance to antibiotics. These antibiotics are the last option of defense against the gram-negative infections that are unaffected to other antibiotics.

The clinical signs of this infection include dyspnea, anorexia, and death. The klebsiella can be separated from blood, liver, and spleen.

Know about the characteristics of Klebsiella pneumonia

Klebsiella pneumonia is a straight rod-shaped bacteria 1–2 µm × 0.5–0.8 µm. The optimum temperature required for strains is 37°C. The infection grows best in the aerobic bacterium. It can even grow in the environment with less oxygen.

  • In liquid culture media, the growth of the bacteria occurs as turbidity in the broth medium that can be analyzed for morphology, gram reaction and Klebsiella pneumonia specific tests.
  • Inside the Blood agar medium, the infection colonies are non-hemolytic.
  • In the MacConkey agar medium, the colonies of this infection are pink in color because of the lactose fermentation.
  • Inside the Eosin Methylene Blue agar medium, the colonies of the bacterium get pink to purple without a green metallic sheen that helps in differentiating the bacteria from other bacteria.

Risk factors associated with Klebsiella pneumonia

An individual is likely to get this infection if they have a weak immune system. The risk factors of this infection are:

  • Increased age
  • Consuming antibiotics
  • Surgery operation
  • Wounds
  • Use of ventilation
  • Taking corticosteroids
  • Kidney failure
  • Chemotherapy

Diagnosis and treatment

A medical practitioner may use various tests to assess this infection. The Klebsiella pneumoniae diagnosis may include the following steps:

  • Physical examination: In case you have a wound, the doctor will look for signs of infection.
  • Fluid samples: The doctor may take samples of your urine, blood, and mucus. The samples will help in checking if there is any presence of bacteria.
  • Imaging test: In case of pneumonia, the doctor may conduct a chest x-ray or PET scan to assess the drugs. If the doctor suspects of having a liver abscess, then he or she may recommend you for an ultrasound or CT scan.

Klebsiella pneumonia can be harmful; hence, the doctor may suggest treatment with antibiotics. It is advised to take the medicines as told by the doctor and finish the complete course of the medicine. If you stop this medicine in the middle, then there are chances that the infection might reoccur.

The diagnosis and recovery may differ and it depends on the following factors:

  • Age and health of the patient
  • Type of infection
  • Strain of klebsiella pneumoniae

Cases of klebsiella pneumoniae

In certain cases, this infection may cause harmful effects that last for long. This infection may cause impairment in your lung function. Early diagnosis may help in the treatment of this infection. It reduces the risk of dangerous complications. Recovery may take a few weeks to several months. During the treatment, it is advised to take all antibiotics and consult a doctor regularly.

In the early 1970s, the strains of this infection are aminoglycosides begin to hold. The strains are followed by extended-spectrum beta-lactamase that produces klebsiella that resists the aminoglycosides.

The antibiotic regime for this infection depends on the organ system involved and the results of the susceptibility test. The drug-resistant cases of this infection can be treated by antibiotics. If this infection is acquired in a hospital then it may be difficult to treat as they are resistant to antibiotics. Individuals who are infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain of this infection should be on contact isolation. If this infection is not drug-resistant it can be treated with antibiotics. Infections that are caused due to Klebsiella pneumonia carbapenemase-producing bacteria are not treated easily as there are lesser antibiotics that are effective in their treatment. A laboratory must run a test to evaluate which antibiotics can treat the infection.

How to prevent klebsiella pneumonia

Klebsiella pneumonia spreads through contact from one person to another. The best way to prevent infection is to regularly wash your hands. It is very important to maintain hygiene that will make sure that the germs do not spread. It is advised to always wash your hands:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose
  • Before and after changing your dressings
  • After sneezing or coughing
  • After using any public toilet

If you are in the hospital, the doctor may advise you to wear gloves in case you come in contact with a person suffering from Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Patients should notify their doctor if they are experiencing any symptoms that are consistent with this infection, especially if they are admitted to the hospital for a week. If Klebsiella is settled in the lungs, it may cause dark red phlegm. It is advisable to visit a doctor regularly and allow them to take your blood samples. The blood test will help you in assessing which antibiotics will be helpful in the treatment of this infection.

Quick facts about Klebsiella pneumonia

Klebsiella bacteria is becoming a common cause of most healthcare-acquired infections. One should take the necessary precautions to avoid this infection.

Listed below are some of the facts that you should about this infection:

  • The klebsiella is named after a microbiologist Edwin Klebs, who was mainly known for his work in infectious diseases.
  • The klebsiella pneumonia is found in the soil and it has also used to increase crop yields.
  • This infection can cause respiratory diseases if you inhale the airborne particles.
  • This infection is common in hospital settings. Patients with weak immune system or those who are on medication are prone to this infection.

Final thoughts

The klebsiella pneumonia is mostly harmless. The bacteria are present in the intestines and feces, but it is harmful if it spreads to other parts of the body. This infection may cause infections in the lungs, brain, and liver. The symptoms of this infection generally depend on the infection.

This infection is usually spread through direct contact from one person to another. The chances of getting this infection are more if you are sick. Healthy people do not get this infection. The recovery can take a lot of time, but an early treatment might improve the prognosis.


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