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Michael Monheit
Michael Monheit
Attorney • (215) 840-6573

Bacterial Infections: Good, Bad, and Deadly

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Bacterial infections can be deadly. Many bacterial infections are misdiagnosed which may be considered medical malpractice. The below bacterial infections are by no means a complete list of all the serious to life-threatening infections.

The vast majority of the bacteria in the body are harmless and protected by your immune system. Some bacteria are even beneficial but it’s the pathogenic bacteria that cause infectious diseases and critical bacterial infections that you have to worry about. Most bacterial infections can be prevented.

Let’s look at some dangerous bacterial infections for pregnant women:

A common bacterial infection is the bladder infection; its medical term is cystitis. For pregnant women who suffer from a bladder infection or urinary tract infection (UTI), complications may be deadly and require immediate medical treatment. When detected early, a bladder infection during pregnancy can be treated. When not treated, a bladder infection can lead to a kidney infection or get into the blood stream causing further complications for mother and baby.

Group B strep is so preventable. Unfortunately, the Group B strep test may not be covered by your health insurance provider and some doctors don’t consider it as part of the prenatal exam. One test could put pregnant women out of harm’s way. Group B strep is carried in the vagina and most of the time is not problematic but when it is – Group B strep can lead to meningitis and blood-borne infections.

Chorioamnionitis or amnionitis is a rare bacterial infection affecting the uterus, amniotic sac, and fetus. Infection of the uterus is caused by bacteria invading the uterine cavity through the mother’s bloodstream or more commonly, the vagina and cervix. Preterm labor, a dilated cervix, and ruptured membranes (or water breaking before 37 weeks) are all risks for developing amnionitis. Pelvic examinations during the last three months of pregnancy contribute to premature rupture of membranes. Also past experiences of water breaking, chlamydia infections, and smoking put women at risk for premature rupture.

Unfortunately, this amnionitis infection cannot be treated without delivering the baby. Although a rare bacterial infection, 5 percent of pregnancies are affected.

Just say no to contaminated cheese and deli meats if you’re pregnant. Listeria bacteria move through the intestinal wall and spreads by way of the bloodstream to other organs, the brain, and placenta because pregnant women naturally have weakened immune systems. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache and stiff neck happen. Infected pregnant women may experience mild, flu-like symptoms. Infections during pregnancy can lead to more serious problems for the fetus.

Bacterial meningitis exposure during pregnancy is dangerous to both mother and baby. Listeria may lead to bacterial meningitis.

Here are some bacterial infections that can affect all age groups but especially people with weakened immune systems:

Bacterial meningitis is the most common and the most life threatening unless treated promptly and correctly. Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be caused by a bacterial, fungal or viral infection. Infection may cause tissues around the brain to swell which interferes with blood flow resulting in paralysis or stroke.

Outbreaks of bacterial meningitis can happen in schools, dorms, and camps. Sometimes the cause is unknown, environmental, caused by a head injury, or from a weakened immune system. Children between the ages of one month and two years are the most susceptible to bacterial meningitis as well as college students and the elderly, people who have suffered from sickle cell anemia or take steroids.

Bacterial meningitis symptoms may be misdiagnosed as the flu. If not immediately treated with the right antibiotics, people can die or suffer paralysis within 24 hours.

Unfortunately, MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics. MRSA is often associated with high school students and hospital induced infections or HAIs. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus which are different strains of bacteria. MRSA can be spread easily enough from person to person contact and can enter the body through a wound or cut.

Staphylococcus aureus is a group of bacteria that live on the surface of people’s skin and inside the nose. Most people carry it around without any ill effects though people with weakened immune systems and people who had surgery can develop serious problems.

The staphylococcus aureus bacteria can cause abscesses, boils, skin infections, septic wounds, toxic shock syndrome – and death. Treatment requires non-resistant antibiotics given through an intravenous drip or injection.

Bacteremia is an infection of the blood stream caused by bacteria. Blood is normally a sterile environment, so the detection of bacteria in the blood is an abnormality.

Bacteremia spreads through the entire body, causing the patient to become seriously ill.

How do bacteria get into blood?

  • during surgery
  • catheters
  • complications from pneumonia or meningitis
  • dental procedures, such as brushing teeth, are the most common cause of bacteremia, introducing a detectable amount of bacteria into the bloodstream but rarely induces serious reactions in a healthy person
  • colorectal cancer
  • intravenous drug abuse

Bacteria can also use the blood to spread to other parts of the body causing infections away from the original site of infection.

Pneumonia is the sixth most common cause of death in the United States. It is the top cause of death from infection. People who have a weak immune system are more likely to be sicker.

Hospital acquired pneumonia is far more common than community acquired pneumonia.

The most common way you catch pneumonia is to aspirate bacteria from your upper airway, usually your oral cavity. Pneumonia can be acquired by breathing in infected air droplets from someone who already has pneumonia. Bacteria can be generated by an improperly cleaned air conditioner or Jacuzzi. Oddly enough, an infection in your kidney can spread to an infection in your lungs. Bacteria can enter your bloodstream from any source and be deposited in the lungs, resulting in pneumonia.

A chest x-ray or a pulse ox can diagnose pneumonia. A pulse ox measures how much oxygen is in the bloodstream. Antibiotics usually cure bacterial pneumonia. Some people develop complications such as sepsis, meningitis, lung failure — and death.


Hospital acquired infections (HAI) are the result of treatment within a hospital or medical care setting and appear 48 hours or more after hospital admission or within 30 days after discharge.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 1.7 million hospital-associated infections occur from all types of microorganisms, including bacteria and cause or contribute up to 99,000 deaths each year. These HAIs cause severe pneumonia and urinary tract infections, bloodstream and other parts of the body infections. Healthcare related or hospital acquired infections are difficult to treat with antibiotics because of growing resistance to antibiotics.

Some examples of hospital inquired infections are caused by contamination from catheters, hospital instruments, intravenous lines, and improperly washing hands.

Septicemia is a medical term for the presence of pathogenic organisms in the bloodstream that lead to sepsis. When bacteria enter the bloodstream, it triggers an immune response resulting in inflammation and a slow shutdown of the body’s ability to handle infection. If septicemia is suspected, patients must go to the ER for immediate medical attention as it can quickly escalate into shock.

Septicemia or blood poisoning or sepsis starts with bacteria or toxins that they produce entering the bloodstream, resulting in a coagulation of the blood as the body tries to fight the bacteria. People acquire septicemia because they are medically vulnerable. Latent infections, surgery, deep puncture wounds, and burns can all lead to septicemia.

Antibiotics, blood transfusions, fluid replacement, dialysis, and possibly life support are treatments.

Sepsis is a potentially serious medical condition characterized by the entire body being in an inflammatory state. Severe sepsis is the systemic inflammatory response, plus infection, plus the presence of organ dysfunction.

Severe sepsis is usually treated in the intensive care unit with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

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  1. Razia says:
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    Bladder infections are a very common medical condition as are hospital acquired infections. These infections and the treatments given by physicians often turn into medical malpractice cases. I see them often. One thing that hurts patient in their chances of winning these lawsuits is the patient following up with the doctor and doing what the doctor asks them to do. Keep in mind 80% or more of medical malpractice claims get dismissed with no indemnity payment paid to the patient.(see http://www.equotemd.com/blog ) Often times people get an infection and are unhappy with the doctor so they don’t want to see the doctor again. This often works against the patient though because doctors today practice very defensively and you can’t bet their medical records will reflect that the patient never came to their follow up visits etc. Does it make sense to continue to see the doctor and get the care the he/she suggests if you are unhappy with the doctor?

    Razia