What is Klebsiella Pneumoniae Infection?

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on February 08, 2022

These common bacteria are usually harmless. They often live in your intestines without giving you any problem.

But klebsiella pneumoniae can be dangerous if they get into other parts of your body, especially if you’re already sick. They can turn into “superbugs” that are almost impossible to fight with common antibiotics. The germs can give you pneumonia, infect your wound or blood, and cause other serious problems.

Infections are rare in healthy people because their immune systems are strong enough to fend off the germs. But infections are more likely if you have health problems like:

Taking certain antibiotics for a long time or other treatments also can raise your chances for a klebsiella infection.

These germs don’t spread through the air. You need direct contact to get sick. One way would be to touch a cut on your skin with dirty hands.

Most infections happen in hospitals, nursing homes, and other places with lots of sick people. The germs can also spread when they get on medical devices like:

  • IV catheters, tubes that go into a vein to give medicines
  • Endotracheal tubes and ventilators, which help you breathe
  • Urinary catheters, which drain urine away

They depend on where the infection is. For example, if the bacteria gives you pneumonia, you may have:

Klebsiella pneumoniae can hit other parts of your body, too. For example, your surgical wound could be infected. You could also get an infection in your:

If you or a loved one has signs of infection, talk to your doctor. Symptoms alone can’t tell whether klebsiella is the cause. So your doctor will test your spit, blood, urine, or other fluids to find out what type of bug is to blame.

Klebsiellainfections can be dangerous, so doctors start treatment with antibiotics right away. Examples include cephalosporins (cefotaxime and ceftriaxone) and carbapenems (imipenem or cilastatin).

If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, take them just as it says on the bottle. If you stop taking them too soon, the infection may come back.

If you have an antibiotic-resistant infection, your doctor will decide the best way to treat it. They’ll probably try a different type of antibiotic or a combination of them.

Most people who get a klebsiella infection recover. But some cases can be deadly, especially pneumonia in people who are already very sick.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is simple. Always wash your hands  before you:

  • Eat
  • Touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Change bandages on a cut

And wash your handsafter you:

  • Use the bathroom
  • Blow your nose, cough, or sneeze
  • Touch things that might have germs on them, especially in doctor’s offices or hospitals

If you check into the hospital for treatment, take steps to protect yourself.

  • Before you go, make sure to follow your treatment plan for any ongoing health conditions, like diabetes.
  • Ask the staff what they do to prevent infections.
  • Tell your nurse or doctor if your bandages get wet or IV tubes fall out of place.
  • If you need a catheter or other device, ask to have it taken out as soon as you don't need it anymore.
  • Ask anyone who comes into your room to wash their hands first.
  • Teach your family about fever and other signs of infection so they can call for help quickly.

Show Sources


CDC: “Klebsiella pneumoniae in Healthcare Settings.”

UpToDate: “Clinical features, diagnosis, and treatment of Klebsiella pneumoniae infection.”

FEMS Microbiology Reviews: “Klebsiella pneumoniae: a major worldwide source and shuttle for antibiotic resistance.”

Medscape: “Klebsiella Infections.”

Emergency Medicine News: “Breaking News: Deadly Klebsiella Pneumoniae Strain Resistant to Carbapenems.”

Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials: “Triple combination antibiotic therapy for carbapenemase-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae: a systematic review.”

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