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Lung diseases

Pneumonia infection caused by e-coli bacteria

09/27/2005

Question:

My grandfather was infected in hospital by some bacteria, which was successfully treated by antibiotics, or so we thought. Then few days later some infection was found in his lungs and was diagnosed as pneumonia. When fluid was drained it was like a "pus" and after testing doctors told us it was e-coli bacteria that caused the pneumonia. I heard of e-coli as food poisoning but never in lungs. What are the implications and the best course of treatment?

Answer:

E. coli is a type of bacteria that can cause infections throughout the body including the urinary tract and the lungs.

It sounds as if your grandfather has had quite a few infections in different systems during his hospitalization.  Do you know where his original infection was?  If it was in his bladder or urinary tract, it may have spread via the blood stream to infect other parts of his body.  Or it is possible that he developed a second infection on top of the first one.

From your description, it sounds as if he has developed an empyema, an infection of the space surrounding the lung.  This type of infection is usually treated by antibiotics and drainage.  Drainage can be performed in several ways:  insertion of a catheter into the space around the lung and withdrawal of fluid; insertion of an indwelling catheter or chest tube for drainage of the fluid; and surgical drainage of the fluid.  The best approach depends upon the characteristics of the fluid, chest x-ray and other imaging results, and how the patient is responding.

Usually, infections of the space around the lung (empyemas) do not cause any significant problems if treated quickly.  Sometimes they can cause scarring and inflammation around the lung that can interfere with breathing; if this occurs, an operation to remove the scar tissue may be necessary.

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Response by:

Ralph   Panos, MD Ralph Panos, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati