Klebsiella pneumoniae is a member of the Enterobacteriaceae family of bacteria. This is a rod-shaped, non motile, gram negative bacteria. Klebsiella is known for its polysaccharide capsule that encases the entire organism, thus making treatment very difficult. The capsule tends to provide the bacteria with resistance to most antibiotics.
All members of the Klebsiella genus show two types of antigens, lipopolysaccharide (O antigens) and capsular polysaccharide (K antigen). These antigens help provide the organisms their pathogenicity. Klebsiella pneumoniae is an opportunistic pathogen that is present in the environment as well as the mucosal surfaces of mammals.
It is one of the major causes of community acquired pneumonia in older people. Let's go into the details of Klebsiella pneumoniae symptoms and have a look at the treatment options in the paragraphs below.
K. pneumoniae is a facultative anaerobic, gram negative organism. This means that it can survive in aerobic conditions (with oxygen) as well as anaerobic conditions (without oxygen). It is present in soil and water and is therefore found over vegetables and fruits.
In humans, these organisms are found on the skin, pharynx and gastrointestinal tract. As mentioned earlier, they are opportunistic pathogens and cause infections in people with diabetes, chronic lung diseases, weak immune system as well as those suffering from chronic alcoholism. It is known to cause nosocomial infections in hospital patients with a weak immune system.
The K. pneumoniae treatment options are very limited as these organisms are resistant to most antibiotics used. When K. pneumoniae enters the lungs, it causes necrosis, inflammation as well as hemorrhage of the lung tissues. They may produce thick and bloody sputum that is described as 'currant jelly sputum'.
Klebsiella pneumoniae generally infects a patient who has had a bout of cold and flu. The viral infection gives the bacteria a chance to infect the airways and lead to an infection. The symptoms of Klebsiella pneumonia are similar to common cold. Thus, most people tend to ignore the infection and do not seek prompt medical help.
The symptoms of pneumonia are as follows -
- High fever
- Cough with mucus that is orange or brownish in color
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Sweating or clammy skin
- Confusion in older people
The doctor will first conduct a gram staining procedure along with other biochemical analysis to identify the bacteria causing pneumonia. Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor will consider the treatment options as only a very few are available. This is because the organism is resistant to most drugs. The patient will be given antibiotics like aminoglycosides and cephalosporins. In some cases, the organism has chromosomal class A beta lactamase.
This makes it resistant to ampicillin. Other strains have extended beta lactamase that make them resistant to amoxicillin, carbenicillin as well as ceftazidime. Thus, only aminoglycosides and cephalosporins are found to be useful against Klebsiella pneumoniae. Systemic infections are treated with amikin, tobramycin, clavulanate, aztreonam, gentamicin and other third generation antibiotics.
Klebsiella pneumoniae leads to a necrotic destruction of alveolar spaces in susceptible patients. The mortality rate due to Klebsiella pneumoniae infection is as high as 50%. The fatality rate is high despite the use of antimicrobial therapy. People who are alcoholics or suffering from bacteremia show 100% mortality rate. It may lead to emphysema, lung abscesses and pulmonary gangrene that require surgical intervention.
As you can see, Klebsiella pneumoniae treatment is not very effective. Washing hands thoroughly will help prevent transmission of the bacteria. Third generation antibiotics of cephalosporin, fluoroquinolones, etc., may help treat this infection. This was all about treatment of Klebsiella pneumoniae. One should speak to their doctor in detail about pneumonia as well as its prognosis, in case of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.