Blood Stream Infection
What is a Blood Stream Infection?
A blood stream infection, also known as a bacteraemia, blood poisoning or septicaemia, is an infection caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream. It occurs when a bacterial infection somewhere in the body, such as in the lungs, intestines, urine or skin, enters the bloodstream.
People in good health with a strong immune system (the bodies system to defend against infection) rarely develop blood stream infections. However, when bacteria enter into the blood stream the immune system may not be able to cope with the invasion, and symptoms of a blood stream infection may develop. This is particularly likely in people who are ill with other diseases or who are undergoing medical treatment in hospital.
Although not all blood stream infections are avoidable in the hospital setting, some procedures, such as the insertion of a urinary catheter or an intravenous cannula or having abdominal surgery, can increase the risk of one occurring.
What are the symptoms of a Blood Stream Infection?
Symptoms may include:
- A high temperature and/or chills
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling generally unwell
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Fast heart rate
You may not have all of these symptoms.
How can we diagnose a Blood Stream Infection?
Blood stream infections are diagnosed by taking samples of blood and sending to the laboratory. In the laboratory we test to see if we can grow bacteria from the blood. If bacteria are present they are usually detected after 1-2 days. We continue testing the blood for 5 days before we can report that the result is negative.
What is the treatment for a Blood Stream Infection?
Prompt treatment using antibiotics usually succeeds in clearing the bacteria from the blood stream. These antibiotics are given intravenously via a drip. As the infection is bought under control we may change to oral antibiotics to complete the course.
For more information, please contact: Infection Prevention and Control Team 0151 529 5599
- Last Updated:01 September 2021
- Review Date:01 September 2025
- Author:Infection Prevention and Control Team
A blood stream infection, also known as a bacteraemia, blood poisoning or septicaemia, is an infection caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream