Generally speaking, most bacteria that exist are harmless to humans and can even be beneficial. These we refer to as “Probiotics”. But when introduced the bloodstream, a normally completely sterile environment, bacteria proves to be especially harmful. This condition, known as Bacteremia, can be very serious and, through the immune response to the bacteria, can lead to sepsis, commonly referred to as “blood poisoning” and septic shock. Both of which, it has been found, have a relatively high mortality rate.
The most common causes of Bacteremia come from general dental procedures such as brushing teeth. These cases rarely cause any kind of clinical condition, though they do introduce detectable amounts of bacteria into the blood stream. Other common causes of Bacteremia include complications of infections such as pneumonia or meningitis, surgeries which involve any kind of mucous membrane especially the gastrointestinal tract and when any kind of foreign body enters the bloodstream, such as with the usage of intravenous drugs, or catheters. More recently, certain cosmetics have been recalled due to infections causing, among other illnesses, Bacteremia. According to research, among the leading causes around the world of Bacteremia, is staphylococcus aureus, or “Golden Staph” which is the most common species of staphylococci to cause Staph infection. The majority of cases are found are in patients who are already hospitalized, as they would be more likely have underlying diseases which would leave them more susceptible to invasion.
Common Bacteremia caused by a dentist visit will usually elicit no symptoms. Bacteremia caused by other less severe sources will usually show as a fever. But if Bacteremia shows more severe symptoms, such as chills, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, vomiting and diarrhea, sepsis is probable. Other symptoms can include general discomfort and abdominal pain, confusion, anxiety and shortness of breath.
Bacteremia is diagnosed most commonly by incubation of a blood culture, in which a sample of blood is set with a microbiological medium which promotes the growth of bacteria. These tests can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to return results. As blood is normally sterile, in a patient who does not have Bacteremia, no bacteria would be present. But, if bacteria is present in the bloodstream at the time the sample is collected, the bacteria would multiply and therefore would be able to be detected. In this process, great attention to the sterilization process must take place, as bacteria that may haphazardly find their way onto the medium will also multiply. Another source of false presence of bacteria can come from bacteria present on the skin at the time the sample is collected. So, multiple tests are often required to tell if the bacteria detected is a persistent bacteria or a transient one. Blood pressure is also monitored closely as low blood pressure in a patient could indicate the onset of septic shock.