May 2023

The Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington is facing an outbreak of Klebsiella pneumoniae that has, so far, resulted in 31 infections and 7 deaths. Reports of Klebsiella infections began in October of 2022.

Since then, the hospital has focused their efforts on minimizing spread and tracing the source.

Klebsiella pneumoniae is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped, facultative anaerobic bacterium. It is encapsulated and will ferment lactose when conditions allow.

This nonmotile bacterium is found in people within the normal flora of the mouth, skin, and intestines. Klebsiella infections usually arise in immunocompromised individuals, such as those with chronic illnesses or in people undergoing immunosuppressive therapies. The most serious infections occur in the lungs, but Klebsiella can also cause urinary tract infections, sepsis, and wound infections.

Effective treatment of Klebsiella infections typically involves the use of antibiotics. However, antibiotic resistance is becoming increasingly common, making treatment difficult.

Public Health – Seattle & King County is concerned about this organism due to the nature of this particular strain, which “has a specific enzyme that breaks down common types of antibiotics, making them ineffective.

Preventative measures such as proper hand hygiene, infection control, and whole room disinfection are crucial to minimize the spread of Klebsiella and other antibiotic resistant infections.