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Bacteremia is the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream.

  • Bacteremia may result from ordinary activities such as tooth brushing, dental or medical procedures, or from infections such as pneumonia or urinary tract infection.
  • Having an artificial joint or heart valve or having heart valve abnormalities increases the risk that bacteremia will exist and cause problems.
  • Bacteremia usually causes no symptoms, but sometimes bacteria can accumulate in certain tissues or organs and cause serious infections.
  • Individuals at high risk of complications from bacteremia are given antibiotics before certain dental and medical procedures.

Bacteremia, particularly if it occurs during ordinary activities, does not cause infections because bacteria typically are present only in small numbers and are rapidly removed from the bloodstream by the immune system. If, however, bacteria is present long enough and in large enough numbers, particularly in individuals who have a weakened immune system, bacteremia can lead to other infections and sometimes trigger a serious body wide response called sepsis.

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