What Is Bacteria in the Blood?

Fact Checked

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Bacteria in the blood is also known as bacteremia, or blood poisoning. According to the Mayo Clinic, the term "blood poisoning" is misleading because it is the presence of bacteria in the blood causing problems, not poison. Wrong Diagnosis.com, a website maintained by Health Grades Inc., says bacteremia is a condition in which bacteria have invaded the bloodstream.


According to Wrong Diagnosis.com, symptoms of bacteria in the blood include an increased heart rate, an increase or decrease in body temperature, increased rate of breathing, decreased oxygen in the blood and sweating accompanied by chills. The Mayo Clinic says symptoms of bacteremia also include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and feeling extremely ill.


According to Wrong Diagnosis.com, bacteria in the blood can be caused by a complication from another condition, or it can be a symptom of another underlying problem. The Mayo Clinic says bacteria enter the blood through a wound or infection. Often this occurs during a medical or dental procedure.


The Mayo Clinic says bacteria in the blood is usually diagnosed by performing a blood culture. Other tests are aimed at identifying the origin of infection and may include urinalysis, wound and spinal fluid cultures, X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds and MRIs.


According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment includes hospitalization with the administration of intravenous antibiotics. Bacteria in the blood is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. Wrong Diagnosis.com says bacteremia may require the following treatments: antibiotics, antifungals, antimicrobials, steroids, fluid replacement and blood transfusions.


The Mayo Clinic says bacteria in the blood can rapidly become a life-threatening condition. According to Wrong Diagnosis.com, once bacteria have entered the bloodstream, the infection can easily spread to other areas of the body, which can lead to abscesses, meningitis and inflammation of organs such as the heart and abdominal cavity. Bacteria in the blood also can lead to sepsis, shock, unusual blood clotting, organ failure and ultimately death.

Bacteremia vs. Septicemia

Bacteremia and septicemia are often confused with each other. According to the Mayo Clinic, septicemia, or sepsis, is a life-threatening result of bacteremia that will affect organ function and eventually lead to a fatal drop in blood pressure. Thus, in general, sepsis is the body's reaction to bacteria in the blood.