Bloodstream Infections

What is a Bloodstream Infection?

A bloodstream infection, also known as bacteremia, is the presence of bacterial, fungal, or other microorganisms in the circulatory system. Generally, this indicates sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition. Bloodstream infections occur when bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other microbial organisms enter the bloodstream and cause a systemic infection in the body.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a bloodstream infection may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Malaise
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea


Bloodstream infections can be caused by a variety of different organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Common causes of a bloodstream infection include:

  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Gastrointestinal infection
  • Infection resulting from intravenous (IV) lines
  • Skin or eye infections

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing a bloodstream infection include:

  • Weakened immune system due to illness or medications
  • Long-term hospitalization
  • Use of a central venous catheter for accessing the bloodstream
  • Recent surgery
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes
  • Alcoholism


Doctors may use a variety of tests and procedures to diagnose a bloodstream infection, including:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Stool sample
  • Cultures of blood, urine, and/or sputum


Treatment of a bloodstream infection may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antiviral medications
  • Surgery
  • IV fluids
  • Transfusions
  • Dialysis
  • Ventilation support


You may be able to prevent a bloodstream infection by:

  • Practicing good hygiene
  • Regularly washing your hands
  • Maintaining a clean home and workspace
  • Avoiding contact with sick people
  • Getting vaccinated
  • Avoiding intravenous drug use
  • If you are hospitalized, ask your doctor about antibiotic prophylaxis or infections prevention practices
  • Requesting a wave of antibiotics if you have an indwelling catheter