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What is Bacterial Pneumonia?

Niki Acker
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Bacterial pneumonia is the inflammation and accrual of fluid in the alveoli of the lungs caused by bacterial infection. Pneumonia may also be caused by viral or fungal infection. There are many different types of bacteria that can cause pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia is most often caused by bacteria being inhaled into the lungs, though if there is bacterial infection elsewhere in the body, it can also enter the lungs through the bloodstream.

The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia are similar to those of other types of pneumonia. The include fever and chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and in severe cases - coughing up blood. Bacterial pneumonia, like other forms of bacterial infection, is treated with antibiotic medication.

Bacterial pneumonia is most often caused by one of the gram-positive bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus, both of which are often present in the throat, nose, or skin of healthy individuals. Gram-negative bacteria that can cause the disease include Escherichia coli, Haemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Many of these bacteria live in the gastrointestinal tract in healthy individuals and cause pneumonia when particles of a product of the gastrointestinal tract, such as vomit or feces, are inhaled.

The atypical bacteria responsible for bacterial pneumonia are the least common cause of the condition, but also result in more serious symptoms. Atypical bacterial pneumonia may not present with the increased white blood cell count that is common to typical bacterial infection in the lungs, and it may not respond to common antibiotics. Some atypical bacteria that can cause pneumonia are Coxiella burnetii, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, Legionella pneumophila, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Yersinia pestis.

Coxiella burnetii causes Q fever, a potentially fatal flu-like disease. If it leads to pneumonia, Q fever can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening condition. Chlamydophila pneumoniae causes a relatively mild form of pneumonia, but the closely related Chlamydophila psittaci causes the serious infection psittacosis, with symptoms including severe pneumonia, joint pain, nosebleed, diarrhea, and conjunctivitis.

Legionella pneumophila also causes a serious and potentially fatal condition, legionellosis or Legionnaire's disease. Mycoplasma pneumoniae causes one of the less severe forms of stypical pneumonia and typically affects young people. Yersinia pestis, the same bacterium responsible for bubonic plague, causes pneumonic plague, a rare but very serious condition.

The antibiotic used to treat bacterial pneumonia is selected based on the specific bacterial pathogen involved. They are often delivered intravenously, especially in hospitalized patients. Patients with severe or advanced pneumonia may also be administered oxygen if they are having trouble breathing.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker , Writer
"In addition to her role as a TheHealthBoard editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "

Discussion Comments

By feasting — On Jan 11, 2013

Bacterial pneumonia makes you feel like you are drowning. It's so hard to get a good breath, and you can hear the crackling and gurgling inside. You have to keep coughing just to get air through to your lungs.

By shell4life — On Jan 10, 2013

I've heard that you can get bacterial walking pneumonia by accidentally inhaling your food. It gets into your lungs and causes an infection.

That's why doctors tell people not to eat anything for a certain number of hours before surgery. When they are under anesthesia, if any food is in their stomach, it could rise up into their throat and get into their lungs and cause pneumonia.

By seag47 — On Jan 10, 2013

@StarJo – The only difference that I know of between bacterial and viral pneumonia is that the bacterial kind makes you sicker and it comes on more quickly. The viral kind happens more gradually.

Bacterial pneumonia sent my mother to the hospital. She sounded and looked like she was dying. It was a scary time.

My dad got viral pneumonia a few years later, but he didn't need to be hospitalized. His started out as a cold and just gradually worsened over a few weeks.

By StarJo — On Jan 09, 2013

How can you tell whether you have viral or bacterial pneumonia? Are the symptoms the same, or is there something different to look for?

Niki Acker

Niki Acker


"In addition to her role as a TheHealthBoard editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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