Klebsiella pneumoniae is one of the normal bacterial flora of the intestinal tract. It is the second most commonly found bacteria in the human gut after Escherichia coli. When this bacteria manages to get out of the gut, it can lead to some serious health issues. This opportunistic pathogen is known to cause urinary tract infections as well as the serious respiratory illness, like pneumonia. Once it gains entry into the lungs, it rapidly divides and leads to many damaging Klebsiella pneumoniae symptoms. In the following paragraphs, we shall have a look at this bacterial agent and learn more about its pathophysiology related to pneumonia.
Genus Klebsiella is a part of Klebsiellae tribe that belongs to the bacterial family Enterobacteriaceae. They are non-motile and rod-shaped bacteria. They are Gram-negative, encapsulated bacteria. The capsule that covers a Klebsiella cell helps provide them resistance to many antibiotics. These bacteria have two types of antigens on the surface of the cell. These antigens include the lipopolysaccharide (O antigen) and the capsular polysaccharide (K antigen). There are around 9 O antigens and 77 K antigens present on a Klebsiella cell. This helps divide the organism into different serotypes based on antigenicity. Among the different species of the genus Klebsiella, Klebsiella pneumoniae is the most medically important bacterial species. Klebsiellae are ubiquitous organisms and are able to colonize the gastrointestinal tract, pharynx as well as the skin.
A Klebsiella pneumoniae infection is caused when the organism is able to enter the lungs. They gain entry into the body by eating unwashed vegetables and drinking contaminated water. Most of the time, a Klebsiella pneumoniae infection is very common in patients with underlying diseases like diabetes, chronic lung diseases, chronic alcoholics, etc. It is mostly a nosocomial infection that occurs in hospitalized patients with weakened immune system.
Once Klebsiella pneumoniae enters the lungs, it causes many destructive changes in the lungs. It leads to necrosis, inflammation, hemorrhage, etc. of the lung tissues. This leads to production of a very thick, jelly like mucus that is called 'currant jelly sputum'. The rapid destruction of the lung tissues is the distinguishing factor for Klebsiella pneumoniae infection. Initially, Klebsiella pneumoniae will cause a sudden high fever. This fever is generally more than 103ºF. The fever is accompanied by other symptoms like chills and dizziness. The patient will also cough up the thick currant jelly sputum. This sputum may show streaks of blood.
As the condition spreads, it leads to formation of abscess. These abscesses are dead tissue pockets that contain millions of Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria. Formation of abscesses cause the lungs to stick with the connective tissues surrounding them. This may lead to collapsed lungs in some patients. Soon, the infection spreads to the upper respiratory tract. When the infection spreads, it causes severe airway congestion. This leads to a foul-smelling nasal discharge.
In short, the symptoms are as follows -
- Brown or blood streaked sputum
- Breathing problems
- High fever
- Chest pain
- Nasal discharge
- Chest congestion
- Rapid breathing rate
- Cyanosis (lips and nails turning blue)
Klebsiella Pneumoniae: Treatment
Treating symptoms is very difficult. This is because, many times, it is a nosocomial infection and the organism is highly resistant to many antibiotics and medications. The Klebsiella pneumoniae treatment includes use of antibiotics like aminoglycosides and cephalosporins. Many patients show a good response to third generation drugs like amikin, tobramycin, clavulanate, aztreonam, gentamicin, etc.
The mortality rate for Klebsiella pneumoniae is very high, even after the patient receives proper treatment. Thus, it is important to know and understand the Klebsiella pneumoniae symptoms. Early medical intervention will help prevent the disease from turning fatal. Hope the above information was helpful to you in understanding the symptoms of pneumonia due to Klebsiella pneumoniae infection.