Klebsiella Pneumoniae: Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment

Klebsiella pneumoniae

What causes pneumonia? Is pneumonia a bacterial or viral infection? Pneumonia can be of various types, walking, viral, chemical, and bacterial. In this article, you will majorly know about the type of pneumonia occurring due to bacterial invasion or Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Walking pneumonia is a bacterial infection caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae. By the name, it might seem horrific. However, it is the least dangerous of all the other forms of pneumonia. The effects are milder and are easily curable with antibiotics.

Viral pneumonia can happen due to infection by influenza viruses A and B, SARS-CoV or Coronavirus, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Other common viruses causing pneumonia include adenoviruses, parainfluenza viruses and rhinoviruses. In case of viral pneumonia, antibiotics will not bring any fortune. Your doctor will mostly prescribe antiviral medications. For influenza attacks, medications that will work are Rapivab (peramivir), Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir). If you have RSV infection, doctors will give you Virazole (ribavirin).

Other than Klebsiella pneumoniae, another common bacterium called Streptococcus or pneumococcus can cause pneumonia. If you have leukemia, HIV-AIDS, lymphoma or serious kidney disorders- you become more prone to bacterial pneumonia. To cure bacterial pneumonia, you should take two shots of Prevnar 13 (PCV 13) and Pnemovax (PPSV 23).

Chemical pneumonia can occur due to a bacterial infection like Klebsiella pneumoniae or viral infection. Particulate matter like dust and smoke fill up your lungs, making it difficult for you to breathe. Aspiration is a major cause of chemical pneumonia.

In this condition, you start breathing stomach contents and oral secretions that has accumulated in your lungs. Chemicals can be of any form- gas, particulate matter, liquid, or vapor. Treatment will involve intravenous techniques of steroids or other pain medication injections, oxygen masks, and oral administration of ant-inflammatory drugs.

What is Klebsiella pneumoniae?

Klebsiella pneumoniae is a non-motile, lactose fermenting, encapsulated, rod-shaped Gram-negative bacterium that performs facultative anaerobic respiration for survival. As per the clinical backdrop, Klebsiella pneumoniae belongs to Proteobacteria phylum and class Gammaproteobacteria. The order of Klebsiella pneumoniae is Enterobacterales and the family of Enterobacteriaceae.

Since Klebsiella pneumoniae is a distinct member of Genus Klebsiella, it is very similar to Klebsiella oxytoca. However, Klebsiella pneumoniae replicates in a 3-hydroxybutyrate culture medium unlike K. oxytoca growing in melezitose. K. pneumoniae is a nitrogen fixing bacterium (diazotroph), and is thus very useful for crop cultivation.

Klebsiella pneumoniae vs. human pneumonia infection

You will naturally find the presence of Klebsiella pneumoniae in the feces and intestines, proving to be usually harmless. However, it can result in serious health complications once it spreads to other regions of your body.

What all organs can Klebsiella pneumoniae infect? Primarily lungs, followed by urinary bladder, blood, liver, wounds, brain and even eyes. The site of infection determines the type of symptoms and subsequent treatment. Under normal healthy conditions, you will not get bacterial pneumonia. If your immunity levels are low, you will eventually become susceptible to Klebsiella pneumoniae infections. In this case, your doctor will advise you to be on a long-term antibiotic course for complete eradication of infection.

How do you get bacterial pneumonia?

Normally, Klebsiella pneumoniae resides in your intestines under very innocuous conditions. If you have to get Klebsiella pneumoniae infection, you have to come in direct contact with the bacterium. It is not an airborne disease, so no need to fear if someone sneezes in front of you. However, when you touch the respiratory droplets coming from the sneeze- that is when the actual horror story begins.

Common places from where you can get the infection are hospital sites, nursing homes or direct interaction with sick people. Pneumonia germs can easily transmit through mediums like hospital devices, such as-

  • Urinary catheters that help in draining your urine
  • Intravenous or IV catheters and tubes that go directly into your veins and enters your bloodstream during medicine administration
  • Endotracheal ventilators or tubes helping in easy breathing
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Common Klebsiella pneumoniae symptoms

The relevant signs of pneumonia will vary with the site of infliction. The possible symptoms that you will notice to confirm if you have pneumonia or not are:

  • Cough
  • Pain in chest
  • Fever
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Thick mucus, often mixed with blood

Klebsiella pneumoniae may affect other regions of your body as well, like any surgical wounds. In such cases, you may get infection in blood, heart, brain, skin, and urinary bladder.

Potential risks of bacterial pneumonia


a condition where bacteria starts growing in your bloodstream resulting in flu-like symptoms such as fever and shivering. Types of bacteria that can easily enter your blood during a simple tooth cleaning or other injuries are-

  • Group A Streptococcus (GAS)
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Salmonella
  • coli (Escherichia coli)
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Staphylococcus aureus (even MRSA)

For quick diagnosis of bacteremia, you need to go for the following tests:

  • Sputum culture- to check whether you have attained the respiratory infection while using a breathing tube
  • Sample testing from catheters for urinary tract and IV usage
  • Wound culture- to check if you have ever undergone any surgery, recent cases of burns and injuries.


A condition similar to bacteremia, but leads to blood poisoning and sepsis. Sepsis is a critical infection that can result in organ failure, potential damage of tissues and death. The common consequences of sepsis include inflammation of tissues across your body, leading to oxygen blockage to vital organs. Sepsis may also result in abnormal clotting of blood in various areas, causing serious complications. Symptoms of septicemia due to Klebsiella pneumoniae infection includes:

  • Abnormal rise in heart rate
  • Puking and nausea
  • Faster breathing
  • Appearance of red patches on your skin
  • Insufficient flow of blood
  • Decrease in your urine output
  • Shock
  • Failing to think and interpret things clearly, raising more confusion


A condition resulting in inflammation of your brain tissues and meninges due to bacterial infection. Meninges generally act as a protective covering to your spinal cord and brain membranes. When fluid buildup occurs in between the meninges, you get meningitis. Onset of the disease will show signs like-

  • Headache
  • Stiffness of neck
  • High fever
  • Photophobia- increases sensitivity towards light
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Frequent blackouts
  • High levels of confusion and lack of focus

Risk factors of Klebsiella pneumoniae infection


You may also call it heart valve inflammation, an infection affecting your endocardial lining of heart valves and heart chambers. Endocarditis can occur due to infection from fungi, bacteria and other pathogens entering from mouth and spreading into your blood. Common symptoms include-

  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Murmuring of heart- an unnatural sound of your heart due to turbulent blood circulation
  • Swelling of feet, abdomen and legs
  • Abnormal sweating at night
  • Pale skin
  • Reduced hunger, followed by unnatural loss of body weight
  • Nausea
  • Fever with continuous shivering
  • Pain in left side of upper abdomen


When bacteria invades your outer soft tissues and skin layers, you get cellulitis. In this condition, you will mostly feel redness, itchiness, and inflammation on your skin. You are at a higher risk if you are suffering from any of the following health complications-

  • Diabetes
  • liver disorders (cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis)
  • skin traumas and diseases like psoriasis and eczema

Possible symptoms of cellulitis involve

  • presence of pus along with abscess
  • swollen epidermal layer
  • tenderness and redness of skin, accompanied by pain in the infected parts
  • rise in temperature in the affected area (dolor)
  • glossy and tight texture of skin
  • rashes and blisters
  • fever
  • lightheadedness
  • fatigue
  • excessive sweating

Other skin problems by Klebsiella pneumoniae include myositis and necrotizing fasciitis.

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Urinary tract infection (UTI)

When Klebsiella pneumoniae invades your urinary tract, you get urinary tract infection. Urinary tract includes your kidneys, urinary bladder, urethra, and ureter. UTI mainly happens when you are using urinary catheters for urine drainage for a prolonged period. You will majorly find elderly women group with UTI related problems. Therefore, it is necessary that you ensure hygiene while urinating at a public place. UTI symptoms are usually quite subtle, but can grave conditions can give you signs like-

  • Strong foul smell of urine
  • Murky urine, often with blood discharge
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Feeling of uneasiness in your lower abdomen
  • Reduced volume of urine
  • Experiencing a burning sensation and an unusual pain every time you urinate
  • Pain in your pelvic region

Other common symptoms of pneumonia can also be associated with UTIs, such as-

  • Nausea
  • Shivers and chills
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in your upper back area and sides
  • Fever

Can Klebsiella pneumoniae affect liver?

Sometimes Klebsiella pneumoniae can invade your hepatic or liver cells resulting in pyogenic liver abscess. In this disease, there are lesions in your liver containing pus majorly due to K. pneumoniae and E. coli infection. Pus is an accumulation of dead cells and WBCs, occurring in your body while fighting a pathogen.

Some of the usual signs to confirm pyogenic liver abscess include-

  • Frequent chills and puking
  • Fever and diarrhoea
  • Pain in the right side of upper abdomen
  • Colour of stool changing to grey or whitish (clay color)
  • Urine color becomes darker
  • Dramatic loss of body weight, like almost losing 10 pounds in 7 days

How to diagnose and treat bacterial pneumonia?

Diagnosis of pneumonic infections involve three basic tests:

  • Physical identification- In case you have any recent cuts or wounds, the doctor will look for physical signs of bacterial infection. Sometimes, the examination may even involve a detailed eye checkup.
  • Fluid sample- The doctor will collect your body fluids to identify traces of bacteria in your blood, cerebrospinal fluid, urine and mucus.
  • Imaging exams- Various imaging tests like PET scans and X-rays can detect bacterial traces in the chest. If you show any signs of pyogenic liver abscess, the doctor may perform a CT scan or ultrasound for confirmation.

Klebsiella pneumoniae infections can be extremely grave if you do not diagnose and treat it at the right time. Once you diagnose positive for Klebsiella pneumoniae, the doctor will immediately give you antibiotics. Common antibiotics include cephalosporins like ceftriaxone and cefotaxime, and carbapenems like cilastatin or imipenem.

You need take antibiotics as per the directions of your doctor. Be careful with the doses and duration for effective results. Your doctor may either prescribe a single antibiotic specific to your infection, or a combination of two or more.

In case of urinary tract infections, doctors will usually conduct a combination therapy involving meropenem and amikacin. UTI happens majorly because of Klebsiella pneumoniae species that are resistant to multiple drugs. Therefore, you need an amalgam of different drugs to attach the pathogen at different sites to denature it.

How to confirm prognosis and revival?

The extent of recovery from bacterial pneumonia and possible prognosis vary from person to person. It majorly depends on how strong your immune system is in fighting dangerous invading pathogens like Klebsiella pneumoniae. The common prognosis factors include-

  • Your age
  • Current status of your health
  • Type of Klebsiella pneumoniae strain(wild or multidrug tolerant)
  • Nature of infection
  • Acuteness of infection

It has been evident in some studies that Klebsiella pneumoniae has prolonged effects on lung damage. Your prognosis automatically improves if you treat the infection in its early stage. Early diagnosis and treatment ensures lesser risk of fatal consequences. Complete recovery from an intense pneumonia can take some weeks or a few months.


Klebsiella pneumoniae is a harmless bacteria existing in your intestine. The problems starts when you bring the infection from outside, direct contact with infected persons or objects. Basic precaution to take at home is washing hands with soap every time you touch your eyes, mouth or nose.

Always cover your mouth while sneezing, followed by washing your hands again to reduce chances of infection. Dress your wounds with sterile cotton and gauze. Be careful of your hygiene while using public restrooms. Carry clean tissues whenever you are outside. Wash your clothes immediately after coming back from a hospital.