What Is Klebsiella Bacteria?

A doctor can take blood and urine samples to detect klebsiella bacteria in a person's system.
Exposure to contaminated medical instruments may cause klebsiella pneumonia.
A dish of klebsiella oxytoca bacteria.
A combination of antibiotics is usually necessary to treat Klebsiella bacteria.
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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2014
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Klebsiella bacteria are a very common genus of bacteria that thrive in humans. Normally, there are large concentrations of Klebsiella bacteria living in the colon that are beneficial to normal digestion. The bacteria can cause serious health problems, however, if certain strains invade other organs and organ systems outside of the digestive tract. Infections are most likely to occur in a hospital or another setting where large groups of people are in close contact. Treating a Klebsiella bacteria infection immediately with high-strength antibiotics is essential to prevent life-threatening complications and reduce the risk of an epidemic.

Several different species of Klebsiella bacteria can cause infection in humans, but the most common pathogen is K. pneumoniae, which targets the lungs and airways. K. pneumoniae can enter the respiratory tract if it is present on an unsterilized breathing tube, a physician's hands or gloves, or on unwashed bedding. Bacteria quickly attach to the lining of air sacs in the lungs and induce severe inflammation, swelling, and eventual tissue death. An infected person may have chest tightness, shortness of breath, a bloody wet cough, and extreme fatigue.

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Other common strains of Klebsiella bacteria, including K. oxytoca, can impair the lungs as well. Infections may also develop at the site of surgical skin wounds or in the urinary tract. Skin infections typically become red, itchy, tender, and swollen within a few hours. Urinary tract problems include blood in the urine stream and frequent and painful urination. Rarely, bacteria that reach the bloodstream can enter circulation and cause potentially life-threatening heart, kidney, and brain complications.

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in preventing fatal outcomes from Klebsiella bacteria infections. A doctor can collect samples of sputum, blood, and urine for laboratory testing. Lab personnel culture samples to confirm the presence of Klebsiella and identify the particular strain involved. Once a diagnosis is made, a patient is quarantined and given intravenous antibiotic treatment. Bacteria can be highly resistant to common antibiotics, including penicillin, so two or more drugs are usually given at a time until doctors find an effective combination.

Most people who receive immediate treatment are able to make full recoveries in one to four weeks. Additional treatments, such as oxygen therapy and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, are provided in emergency situations to stabilize breathing. Individuals are typically kept in quarantined rooms until they are entirely symptom-free; they are then normally sent home with a supply of oral antibiotics. Follow-up visits are important to confirm that bacteria have been fully eradicated.

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Discuss this Article

anon962555
Post 6

I have been diagnosed with Klebsiella Oxytoca in my right breast. My doctor has put me on Levoquin. Should I be concerned or will this antibiotic take care of it?

anon943237
Post 5

I have a loved one who almost died twice and it is has taken two months to discover that she has Klebsiella. She received injections in her back and within two weeks she had developed a severe respiratory illness that acting like ARDS, COP, or pneumonia. However cultures came back negative and doctors said it was inflammation of the lung tissue. She was intubated for two weeks and in rehabilitation for four when a urinary tract infection made her septic and the lung issue relapsed. She is still in critical care and we don't know when she will recover.

The lesson is this: it is a dangerous and deadly illness that is hard to diagnose and very rare. If you suspect a family member has it, get them help. It just might save their lives.

anon317185
Post 4

In my head, in between hairs I'm getting pimples, from one to two a year. Initially, it started as one or two and it spread gradually. I was asked to take antibiotics for this by doctors and it will disappear when I'm taking tablets and comes back again when I stop.

Two weeks back, I did a lab test on the sample pus and found that the cause is due to Klebsiella Bacteria. It said, "Klebsiella species grown in culture (scanty growth)". Can you please advise me here how to get a permanent fix for this?

anon295613
Post 3

I had a culture taken and I was told I have got Klebsiella pneumoniae. Mine is on my face and has arisen from having a dermal filler injection done 11 months ago. The dermal filler injected was Juveni volumizer acid, and I discovered it has made many people ill and has been contaminated.

My face was always red and fiery at the injection site and became lumpy like I had granulomas. I was seeking surgery to discover I have KP on the skin on my face. I am on ciprofloxacin 500mg three times daily for three weeks.

I am so scared, as I don't read any positive things, or anything about the skin KP. It's all about people dying, etc. Please, does anyone know about skin, external KP, and any topical antibiotic that can also be applied?

RequiredFun
Post 2

@Gardenias - Bacteria test cultures do typically take several days to develop, yes. However, many labs can do rush cultures that provide preliminary results based on early information. Doctors can take this information to begin treating based on the most likely cause of the infection.

I don't know about klebsiella in particular, but I would imagine that most doctors are familiar with klebsiella symptoms. That in conjunction with early test results is probably all they need to begin a treatment regimen. Then, once the cultures are confirmed, a doctor might modify the medications accordingly.

In any event, the treatment for this infection is antibiotics, which is relatively standard when infection is obvious. It sounds like the symptoms of this infection are relatively harsh and fast moving, so I can't imagine a doctor not prescribing antibiotics immediately and then adjusting the type or quantity after the cultures come back.

Gardenias
Post 1

Wow...and I thought the staphylococcus bacteria was nasty! This sounds just horrid. It is amazing to me that a bacteria can live and thrive in one area of the body without causing any problems and yet wreak this kind of havoc on a person if it gets into other parts of the body.

Nature, science, and biology is truly an amazing subject to think on, particularly with regard to just how delicate a healthy environmental balance is. I do have one question, however. Cultures typically take several days to develop, right? So what are a doctor and patient supposed to do while waiting on the results of the test?

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