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Health Information Center


  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




Bacteremia means that bacteria has spread to the blood. It can lead to infections when it is not treated. It can also lead to sepsis. This is a severe reaction of the body to the infection.


It is normal to have bacteria in some parts of the body. Small tears or harm can allow it to enter the blood. This can happen from:

  • Everyday tasks like toothbrushing
  • Some health procedures
  • Infections in the body, such as pneumonia

Pneumoniahttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=71607160pneumonia lung fluid.jpgpneumonia lung fluidNULLjpgpneumonia lung fluidNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\pneumonia lung fluid.jpgNULL98NULL2008-06-162873947160_928946Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Things that can raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Dental cleanings or procedures
  • Having an IV or a urinary or central catheter
  • Having tubes placed in the throat to help with breathing
  • Recent surgery or hospital stay


Most people do not have symptoms. Those who do may have a fever and body aches.


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. An exam will be done.

A blood test will be done to look for signs of bacteria.


The goal of treatment is to get the bacteria out of the blood and prevent it from causing more problems. Antibiotics will be used to keep the bacteria from leading to a serious infection or sepsis.


People at higher risk of infection may be given antibiotics before certain medical procedures. This will get rid of bacteria before it can cause problems.





  • Bacteremia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/biology-of-infectious-disease/bacteremia.
  • Bacteremia with gram-negative bacilli. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bacteremia-with-gram-negative-bacilli.
  • Occult bacteremia and fever without apparent source in infants and young children. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/miscellaneous-bacterial-infections-in-infants-and-children/occult-bacteremia-and-fever-without-apparent-source-in-infants-and-young-children.
  • Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/staphylococcus-aureus-bacteremia.


  • Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.