Bacteremia symptoms appear for various causes. Know the risk factors and inform yourself on the things you need to do should you notice it.

Bacteremia is the entry of bacteria into the blood, either due to infection or poor cleaning of surgical material, among other possible causes.

Bacteria are essential microorganisms for the functioning of the planet and also for that of our body on an individual level. Our interactions with them are endless, both positive and negative. Next we will present one of the most lethal: bacteremia.

Before getting fully into what this dreaded phenomenon is, it is necessary to delve a little into the terminology that surrounds bacteria. These little beings surround us at all hours and in each of the activities we do, even if we don’t realize it.

Knowing the bacteria

Bacteria are single-celled organisms a few micrometers long. They are prokaryotes, which means that they lack a cell nucleus and internal membranous organs, unlike human cells.

They present a varied morphology depending on the families and species: from spheres to filaments and bizarre spring forms.

According to its identification process using coloring agents, there are two types of bacteria:

Gram-positive: these bacteria have a characteristic peptidoglycan wall that stains with the purple dye, giving them a powerful violet color. These bacteria are found, to a large extent, in the digestive tract.

Gram-negative: unlike the previous ones, their cell membrane does not retain the purple dye, which gives them a light pink color.

This small appreciation will be very important in later sections. Now, let’s focus on the topic at hand.

What is bacteremia?

This poor prognosis process is defined by the presence of bacteria capable of reproducing in the blood. At first, to a person unfamiliar with the subject, it might seem that there is nothing wrong with this, since bacteria are found in our mouth, in our intestinal tract and lining our entire body.

Once again, the answer lies in the immune system. Antibodies find these bacteria as foreign elements in the bloodstream and generate an immune response to expel them.

The bacteria, in turn, travel through the circulatory system as if it were a highway and reach the various bodily organs, multiplying at breakneck speeds.

The immune response, added to the damage caused by the bacteria, can lead to a total collapse of the body of the person suffering from bacteremia, even causing their death.


There are two main types, which refer to the previously named classification:

  • Bacteremia by gram-positive bacteria.
  • Bacteremia by gram-negative bacteria.

By gram-positive bacteria

Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Enterococcus species are the gram-positive bacteria that cause the most bacteremia.

We must pay special attention to the species of Staphylococcus aureus, since it is the most common cause of this process in all of America. It appears in the respiratory system and on the skin in a normal way. Therefore, a poorly managed surgical procedure could put the patient’s life at risk.

Let’s take an example. When inserting an intravenous catheter, poor instrument disinfection can have a fatal outcome. If the tube has been in contact with the patient’s skin and has taken a Staphylococcus sample with it, introducing it into the bloodstream gives the bacteria a new environment in which to move easily to other organs.

By gram-negative bacteria

Gram-negative bacteria are the cause of 24% of all bacteremia caused by sanitary processes. And, 45% of that produced outside hospitals, according to a study by Oxford Academic. In general, these bacteria enter the bloodstream as a result of a respiratory, genitourinary, or gastrointestinal bacterial infection.

This type of bacteremia also has a clear age bias, since it occurs mainly in people 65 years of age or older.

We must mention here the species Escherichia coli. Being part of the natural intestinal flora, it is the cause of 75% of gram-negative bacteremia in patients at risk, due to infections in the urinary tract.

Am I at risk of developing bacteremia symptoms?

The answer is reassuring, because in principle a healthy person has little chance of developing bacteremia symptoms. In addition, the methods and regulations for disinfecting and carrying out sanitary processes are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Still, there are certain risk factors such as the following:

  • Liver failure.
  • Need for organ transplants.
  • Being HIV-positive.
  • Age.

It is possible to reach this point, as we have said, by poorly disinfected surgical material or by an uncontrolled infection of the body. However, you can treat bacteremia with antibiotics and the prognosis is usually positive if you get early diagnosis.

Of course, it is essential to underline a reality. It is necessary to go to the doctor immediately if they suspect a bacterial infection. This will prevent these microorganisms from multiplying and entering the blood stream.

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