Klebsiella Pneumoniae – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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Klebsiella pneumoniae

Klebsiella pneumoniae or simply K. pneumoniae (as it is commonly known) are such colonies of bacteria that primarily exist in the human intestines or feces.

However, Klebsiella pneumoniae characteristics are such that they also inhabit oral flora, often without creating any prominent issues in our bodies. If they start traversing to different parts of your body, the story can change. Yes, you can expect severe infections in your body. Risks are also higher if you are sick.

In most cases, the infections can spread to the different parts of your body, such as wounds, eyes, liver, bladder, blood, brain and lungs.

The symptoms of Klebsiella pneumoniae infection that appear, as a result of it, are a follow up of the body parts it has spread.

A generally healthy body is less susceptible to infections by Klebsiella pneumonia, but if your immune system is weak on the inside, then chances are high. In certain cases, the use of antibiotics for a very long term can be the reason too.

Recent studies had to reveal that some of the strains of this Gram-negative bacteria have become resistant to the drugs. Following this, some infections get comparatively difficult to be treated with the usual antibiotics that are given to patients.

Causes of Klebsiella pneumoniae infections

The infections are chiefly caused by the bacteria, Klebsiella pneumoniae, when these bacteria find a way into your body.

These gram-negative bacteria attack weakly immune bodies. The weakness of a person may be due to prolonged medication for some underlying disease or surgeries and old age. The bacteria do not succumb to the immune system of the human body and hence result in the infection.

The reason for healthy people being less susceptible to the infection is that bacteria are not airborne, so breathing air won’t let the bacteria invade your body.

In other cases, it is also spread through interpersonal contacts. Hospitals, doctor’s clinic, or nursing homes are places where people get infected through medical devices such as:

  • urinary catheters that are used for patients to drain the urine away
  • IV catheters used to infuse medications into the veins
  • endotracheal ventilators or tubes that help patients to breathe

Klebsiella pneumoniae is also a sexually transmitted disease (STDs) and occurs due to co-infection too.

Who has the risk of getting it?

While a weakened immune system is a prime reason for the occurrence of Klebsiella pneumonia infections in a person, other reasons also increase the chance. The risk factors are as follows:

  • Unhygienic handling and bandaging wounds
  • Surgeries
  • Being hospitalized for a while
  • Older age
  • Diabetes
  • Alcoholism
  • Chronic liver or obstructive pulmonary diseases
  • Kidney failure
  • An organ transplantation
  • Lung disease
  • Cancer and chemotherapy

Symptoms of Klebsiella pneumoniae

As mentioned earlier, healthier people are less likely to get affected by this Klebsiella pneumoniae infection, but in case your immune system is on the weaker side, you may succumb to the disease.

Certainly, when patients are taking medications for a long time for some other underlying diseases, then the chances are also high of getting affected.

This may be in situations where patients are already suffering from diseases such as lung disease, diabetes, cancer, liver disease, and alcoholism.

General Symptoms

Since the symptoms depend on the organ that it has affected, you may suffer from fevers, chest pain, diarrhea, coughs, excessive mucus or bloody mucus, and shortness of breath.

Surgical infections

Post-surgery, the wound may get infected and raise symptoms of bacteremia and septicemia (that is related to blood), cellulitis (skin), meningitis (Brain), endocarditis (Heart) and urinary Tract infection (UTI).

Bacteremia

Bacteremia occurs when the Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria reaches your blood and infects it. Primarily it directly infects the bloodstream, but then secondary bacteria may spread that infection to other parts of the body.

Studies suggest that 50% of this infection occurs due to lung infections, as Klebsiella infects them. Symptoms appear suddenly such as shaking, chills and fever.

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Cellulitis

Klebsiella pneumoniae can break into your skin and affect the softer tissues within.  This often happens after surgery or after an injury occurs.  You may have to suffer fever, pain, fatigue, and other symptoms of flu. The affected area may appear red, inflamed and pain a lot.

Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is quite a rare disease and causes inflammation of all the spinal cord and brain membranes. This is a result of an infection in the fluid of the brain as well as the spinal cord.

Hospital settings turn out to be the reason for bacterial meningitis and it begins with headache, the feeling of stiffness in the neck, and high fever.

Apart from this, additional symptoms are confusion, vomiting, photophobia, and nausea.

Endocarditis

The Klebsiella pneumoniae causes infection in the inner lining of the heart, endocardium- the condition is stated as infective endocarditis.

The symptoms are critical, but the chances of affecting people with healthy hearts are less. The usual symptoms are:

  • Coughs and short breaths
  • Pale skin
  • Fevers and chills
  • Heart murmur
  • swollen legs, feet, and abdomen
  • Nausea and less appetite
  • Sudden drastic weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • A feeling of fullness in upper-abdomen on the left side

Urinary Tract Infection

Klebsiella pneumoniae UTI symptoms are identical to the symptoms of UTI caused by other organisms. UTI affects the urethra, kidneys, ureters, and bladder- the entire urinary tract. Clinically, its symptoms include lower back pain, urgency, dysuria, suprapubic discomfort or passing a very small amount of urine at a time. Additionally, bloody or even cloudy urine, lower abdomen-discomforts and strong smell in the urine also appear.

Systemic symptoms can be fevers, chills, and indicate prostatitis or concomitant pyelonephritis. In most of the older people, this infection affects patients who have been using a catheter for a long time.

How contagious is it?

While we see that Klebsiella pneumoniae affects different organs but there are obvious medications for them, but since 2001, physicians have been observing an increased percentage of these bacteria that are highly resistant to most of the drugs.

This alarms us with a question in mind: Is Klebsiella pneumoniae UTI dangerous.

In 2011, US physicians recognized at least 700,000 infections to be highly invasive, which are resistant to multiple drugs. Even within the last two decades, the infections have alleviated by 50% and proved to be more drug-resistant. As a fact, in the worst cases, a lack of medication can turn fatal.

Patients, and especially women in the hospital settings, are often Klebsiella pneumoniae UTI contagious. To avoid the rapid progression of infection from lower to upper urinary tracts, a consultation with physicians warrants easier recognition of the disease and hence the convenience of the treatment procedures.

Moreover, the infection has the chance of spreading to other members of the family if they are significantly unhealthy. Even though healthy members are at a low rate of risk, precautions have to be maintained regarding hand hygiene. Klebsiella infection usually spreads through interpersonal contacts.

If you want to know more about: Is Klebsiella pneumoniae UTI dangerous, here’s to it!

WHO has stated that the problem of drug resistance of Klebsiella pneumoniae is serious as it threatens modern medicines. The resistant strains are naturally occurring, and this how the microorganisms are expanding.

Hence, a large-scale misuse of antibiotics is taking place, accelerating the rate of producing resistant strains. It had been stated as the most drug-resistant bacteria of the 21st century.  About 50% of women and 5% of men suffer from UTIs at least once in a lifetime.

Diagnosis

Klebsiella pneumoniae diagnosis is depended on the symptoms and affected region of the body. These are:

  • Physical examination: The doctor examines the wound where the infection has occurred.
  • Fluid samples: Samples of blood, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, and mucus are taken to check the infection.
  • Imaging test: in case the physician suspects pneumonia, X-ray of chest, and PEST scan for lungs prescribed.

Note for the patients; doctors also examine catheters and ventilators for K. pneumoniae.

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This confers that if anyone is affected by Klebsiella infection, it is best not to hesitate and delay the diagnosis. Earlier onset of proper treatments reduces the chances of morbidity as well as the mortality risks.

How to treat?

Typically doctors prefer giving medications like antibiotics in these cases.  But in recent times, the antibiotic-resistant factor has worsened matters. Some of these bacteria are superior strains and are resistant to carbapenems, which are last resort to these infections.

Such bacteria release enzymes known as Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemases (KPC), which make the antibiotics ineffective.  These high drug-resistant bacteria fall in the group of bacteria termed as CRE or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.  The common type is Carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella that has given birth of 7,900 infections causing around 520 deaths a year.

The treatment for this CRE is generally powerful, but the bacteria seem to remain slightly effective even after higher dosages of this drug. So, several drugs are given to patients in the combinations of the Temocillin, Polymyxins, Fosfomycin, Aminoglycosides and Tigecycline.

The regimen for having the antibiotics depends on the organ that it has affected.  This is understood after the patient has undergone susceptibility tests.

When the infections are due to hospital settings, chances of recovery are difficult to achieve because those bacteria are usually drug-resistant. Such patients are placed under precautions of contact isolations.

When to get a check-up?

Klebsiella pneumoniae treatment is all about strict regulations. The time you notice any form of infections that is gradually becoming the reason for your high fevers or chills or at times stop you from breathing, head off.

The infections of Klebsiella are quick to spread, so you better don’t take chances.  It also spreads throughout the body too fast.

Therefore, usually, doctors expect lab tests in the first place to identify the antibiotics that will work for it. In that case, following the doctor’s instructions are a must, and you dare not stop following them.

Medications need to be taken as prescribed by the doctor, and you need to continue with them as long as mentioned. Otherwise, the disease can reoccur.

Most of the patients get recovered easily, but deadlier conditions can prevail in patients already suffering from pneumonia.

Prevention: How’s the way forward?

Klebsiella pneumonia is a disease that is likely to spread from one person to another. So you need to wash your hands frequently throughout the day.

Good hygiene for hands is the key to the prevention of this infection.  There are several occasions when you should wash your hands, which are as follows:

  • After you cough or sneeze
  • Before and after you are cooking or eating your food
  • Before changing the bandage of a cut
  • After using the bathroom
  • Before touching the nose, mouth or eyes
  • Before and after you are dressing the wounds
  • After touching any of the hospital properties or surfaces like doorknobs, bed rails, phones, remote controls and tables at the side of the beds

It is observed in most of the cases that hospital settings are more responsible for deadlier versions of Klebsiella pneumoniae infections in patients. So, healthcare personnel needs to follow precaution steps while treating their patients:

  • Follow the precautions for infection control
  • Strictly adhere to principles of hand hygiene
  • Wear gloves before entering the unit where infected patients are staying
  • Cleaning procedures need to consider the aspect of preventing the spread of infections
  • Certain protocols regarding handling devices for treating infections or other wounds

Bottom Line

There are many drugs available for normal levels of infections. You just need to approach the doctor at the time of the slightest incidence of infection and visible symptoms of it in your body. Further, follow up with precautions and medications diligently. Similarly, for the deadlier cases, it is required to bring the patients under careful medical surveillance and potential isolated care.

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Klebsiella pneumoniae