Bloodstream Infections

Table of Contents

What is Bloodstream Infections?

Bloodstream infections are infectious diseases caused by the presence of bacterial or fungal microorganisms in the bloodstream. This condition elicits an inflammatory response characterized by clinical and laboratory changes.

Sepsis and bloodstream infections are the same two conditions – as sepsis is an infectious syndrome caused by an infectious disease, while bloodstream infection is sepsis caused by microorganisms in the bloodstream.

Difference between Septicemia and Sepsis

Septicemia is a serious bloodstream infection or blood poisoning. It is triggered by a bacterial infection in other body parts such as your lungs or your skin – which then enters the bloodstream.

Septicemia is a dangerous infection. It may even quickly become life-threatening, as the bacteria and toxins can be spread through the bloodstream throughout the body. You may need to be treated in the hospital before it turns into sepsis if left untreated.

Septicemia and sepsis are different. Sepsis is a serious complication of septicemia that causes inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can cause blood to clot and block oxygen from reaching vital organs, resulting in organ failure.

Causes of Bloodstream Infections

Either bacterial, viral, or fungal infection – all three can cause sepsis. Types of infections that often cause sepsis include infections of: 

  • Blood flow infection
  • Catheter sites
  • Digestive system
  • Wounds or burns 
  • Lungs, like pneumonia
  • Kidney, bladder, and other parts of the urinary system

It is possible that the bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics. Possible causes may include:

  • Use of mechanical ventilation
  • Use of urine or intravenous catheter
  • Being very young or very old
  • Have had severe wounds or burns
  • Have an immune system disorder such as HIV, leukemia, or medical treatments such as chemotherapy or steroid injections

When to See a Doctor for Bloodstream Infections

Your haematologist may perform a medical exam to diagnose a bloodstream infection. Several tests may be performed to determine the underlying cause.

Blood Tests

Your blood sample can be used for testing: 

  • Evidence of infection
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Impaired oxygen delivery/availability
  • Abnormal liver or kidney function

Other laboratory tests

Other laboratory tests may also be performed to identify the source of infection. Samples may be taken from: 

  • Urine
  • Wound secretions
  • Respiratory secretions

Imaging Tests

If the site of infection is not visible, your doctor may order one or more of the following imaging tests:

  • X-rays to identify lung infections
  • Ultrasound to check for infections in your gallbladder and kidneys
  • CT scan to identify infections in the liver, pancreas, or other abdominal organs
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help identify soft tissue or infection

Symptoms of Bloodstream Infections

Recognize the symptoms of sepsis and septicemia early to treat bloodstream infections.

Symptoms of Sepsis

To diagnose sepsis, your doctor must confirm that you have an infection. Possible signs  may appear, such as:

  • Changes in mental state
  • Systolic blood pressure ≤ 100 mm Hg.
  • Respiratory rate ≥ 22 breaths per minute.

Symptoms of septic shock

Septic shock is a significant drop in blood pressure that results in abnormal problems with how cells work. You should not underestimate septic shock, as it can increase the risk of death. Recognize the following symptoms of septic shock:

  • The need for medication to maintain systolic blood pressure is greater or about 65 mm Hg.
  • High levels of lactic acid in your blood. Having too much lactic acid in the blood means that your cells are not using oxygen properly.

Symptoms of Septicemia

Possible signs and symptoms of septicemia include:

  • Shock
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Reduced urine volume
  • Inadequate blood flow
  • Red spots appearing on your skin
  • Confusion or inability to think clearly

Treatment for Bloodstream Infections

Intensive treatment may increase the chance for recovery. People with bloodstream infections require close monitoring and special care in the hospital. Several measures may be needed to stabilize breathing and heart function.


Numerous medications are used to treat sepsis and septic shock, such as:

  • Antibiotics. Treatment with antibiotics can be started as soon as possible. After analyzing your blood test result, your doctor may turn to other antibiotics to fight infection-causing bacteria.
  • Intravenous fluids. As with antibiotics, treatment with intravenous fluids can also be started as soon as possible.
  • Vasopressors. This medication constricts blood vessels and helps increase blood pressure, especially if your blood pressure is too low even after receiving intravenous fluids.
  • You may also be advised to take low doses of corticosteroids, insulin, to help keep blood sugar levels stable, medications that alter the response of the immune system, and painkillers or sedatives.

Supportive Care

Patients with bloodstream infections often receive other treatments such as oxygen support. You may need special devices to help you breathe. If your kidneys are affected, you may need to undergo dialysis.


Surgery may be needed to remove the source of infection, such as a collection of pus (abscess), infected tissue, or dead tissue (gangrene).

Treatment Cost for Bloodstream Infections

Treatment for bloodstream infections may vary widely – depending on the type of treatment, your choice of hospital, and other factors. 

To calculate the estimated cost for bloodstream infections treatment at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Bloodstream Infections

Take the following steps to prevent bloodstream infections:

  • Get vaccinations for flu, pneumonia, and other potential infections.
  • Prevent infections that can cause sepsis by cleaning wounds, and maintaining good hygiene by washing hands and taking showers regularly.
  • If you have an infection, look for signs such as:
    • Fever and chills
    • Extreme fatigue, dizziness, or confusion
    • Signs of impaired organ function: Shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, and low urine volume
    • Red skin rash
    • Excessive thirst
    • Loss of appetite

Home Remedies for Bloodstream Infections 

In order to prevent recurrent bloodstream infections, take the following treatment steps:

  • Probiotics – used to help prevent and reduce sepsis infection. It also supports your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and help fight infection. You can also consume probiotics in foods such as kimchi, coconut water, kefir, and kombucha.
  • Zinc and selenium – low levels of zinc, selenium, or both mean you are at greater risk of infection and your immune system is at risk of being compromised. Therefore, eating foods rich in zinc and selenium on a daily basis can help strengthen your immune system. 
  • Propolis. Studies have shown that propolis is a natural ingredient that can help treat septic shock.
  • Foods rich in nutrients – these types of foods can strengthen your immune system. Keep your hands clean by washing your hands to help protect your body from infection.

Book an appointment with a hematologist at home and abroad through Smarter Health if you have symptoms of a bloodstream infection. Smarter Health‘s online consultation (teleconsultation) service allows you to seek medical treatment whenever you need them without having to leave the house – thus minimizing the spread of COVID-19. 

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