Klebsiella pneumoniae is a bacterium that normally lives inside human intestines, where it doesn't cause disease.

But if K. pneumoniae gets into other areas of the body, it can lead to a range of illnesses, including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, meningitis, and urinary tract infections.

Most cases of K. pneumoniae infection occur in a hospital setting.

Causes and Risk Factors of a Klebsiella Pneumoniae Infection

K. pneumoniae infections are typically "nosocomial" infections, which means they're contracted in a hospital or healthcare setting.

People who have weakened immune systems, or sick or injured people who are undergoing procedures for various health issues, are more likely to get a K. pneumoniae infection than the general population.

Healthy people usually don't have to worry about getting K. pneumoniae infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The bacteria are not airborne, so you can't contract a K. pneumoniae infection by breathing the same air as an infected person.

Instead, K. pneumoniae is spread through direct person-to-person contact, such as when someone with contaminated hands touches a wound.

Infections can also occur through the use of contaminated medical equipment. For example, people on ventilators can contract Klebsiella pneumonia if breathing tubes are contaminated with the bacteria. Similarly, the use of contaminated intravenous catheters can lead to bloodstream infections.

Long courses of antibiotics can also increase a person's risk of getting a klebsiella infection.

Duration of a Klebsiella Pneumoniae Infection

The duration of treatment for klebsiella infection varies from a few weeks to several months, depending on the individual, location of infection, and how early the infection is caught.

Typically, the earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better the outcome.

Prevention of a Klebsiella Pneumoniae Infection

The CDC has guidelines for healthcare providers to reduce risk of hospital-acquired infection like klebsiella. Safety measures include frequent hand-washing and use of hand sanitizer, as well as the wearing of gloves and gowns to enter the rooms of patients who have klebsiella-related illnesses.

To prevent the spread of germs, patients should also wash their hands frequently, including:

  • Before touching their eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After using the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose
  • Before and after changing wound dressings and bandages
  • After touching surfaces in the hospital like bedside tables, bed rails, doorknobs, remote controls, and the phone

Research and Statistics: How Many People Get Klebsiella Pneumoniae Infections?

A study published in the American Journal of Medicine estimated the overall annual population incidence of klebsiella infection is 7.1 per 100,000. The researchers found elderly people and men were at highest risk of infection.
According to the National Institutes of Health Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, klebsiella is responsible for 8 percent of all hospital-acquired infections.
Furthermore, a CDC report found carbapenem-resistant klebsiella is responsible for about 7,900 infections and 520 deaths each year.

Resources We Love

Favorite Organizations for Essential Information About Klebsiella Pneumoniae

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC provides all the information you need about what causes klebsiella infections, how it is spread, treatment, and what you can do to prevent infection.

National Institutes of Health Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

GARD is another great resource to learn all the facts about Klebsiella pneumoniae infections. You can also access a database of clinical trials that are related to klebsiella and read the descriptions of each study. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before choosing to participate in a clinical study.

Additional reporting by Joseph Bennington-Castro.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  1. Klebsiella Infection. National Institutes of Health Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
  2. Klebsiella Pneumoniae in Healthcare Settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. November 24, 2010.
  3. Klebsiella Pneumonia. StatPearls. March 25, 2020.
  4. Chronic Klebsiella Pneumonia: A Rare Manifestation of Klebsiella Pneumonia. Journal of Thoracic Disease. September 2015.
  5. Treatment Options for Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae Infections. Open Forum Infectious Diseases. April 2015.
  6. Pneumonia Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic. June 13, 2020.
  7. Blood Poisoning: When to See a Doctor. Mayo Clinic. April 22, 2020.
  8. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic. October 14, 2020.
  9. Bacterial Meningitis. Cleveland Clinic. July 24, 2019.
  10. Incidence, Risk Factors, and Outcomes of Klebsiella Pneumoniae Bacteremia. American Journal of Medicine. September 2009.
  11. Antibiotic Resistant Threats in the United States, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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