Difference Between Bacteremia and Sepsis

When it comes to problems in clinical practice, bacteremia and sepsis are two of the common clinical condition. Most of the people erroneously used both these terms synonymously. They can be associated with one another but not used as synonyms.   


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Bacteremia is caused when bacteria are present in small numbers and removed rapidly from the bloodstream with the help of the immune system. If bacteria are present in large numbers in person with a weakened immune system can lead to sepsis.

But the difference does not end here. This article focuses on covering the differences between bacteremia and sepsis. 

Bacteremia vs Sepsis 

The difference between bacteremia and sepsis is that bacteremia is the condition that occurs when bacteria are there in the blood. On the other hand, sepsis is the condition when the immune system of the body overreacts and leads to organ leads to dysfunction.  

Bacteremia vs Sepsis

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From ordinary activities, medical or dental procedures, or infections bacteremia can be caused. Antibiotics are given before dental or medical procedures if a person has a high risk of complications.

If the immune system fails to remove bacteria, then it can accumulate in several places throughout the body.  

Sepsis is a term that is a bit more complex. This word comes from the Greek word ‘sepein’ or simply ‘sepsis’ which means putrefaction or the decomposition, breakdown, or due to bacterial action leading to rotting of an organic substance. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonBacteremiaSepsis
InterpretationIt is a condition that occurs when bacteria are there in the blood.It is the condition when the immune system of the body overreacts and leads to organ leads to dysfunction.
ComplicationsSeptic shock, SIRS, and sepsisSeptic shock and death
Morality rateAfter 30 days of illness, it can be 22%After 28 days of illness, it can be 33.2%
CausesBacteriaViral infection or bacterial infection

What is Bacteremia? 

When bacteria are present in the bloodstream, then it causes bacteremia. In some cases, it can be asymptomatic, which means there are no symptoms present in a person.

In other cases, bacteremia symptoms may be present and cause a potential risk for intense complications.  

Sepsis and septic shock can be developed if bloodstream infection is untreated for a long time. When septic shock occurs there is a drop of blood pressure dramatically occurs. It can also lead to organ failure.

Additional complications include pneumonia, osteomyelitis, meningitis, cellulitis, endocarditis, infectious arthritis, and peritonitis.  

It is necessary to turn to a doctor if the patient experiences chill, shaking, or fever that comes on suddenly. 

There is a risk for infection in the bloodstream of a person who has recently been hospitalized, undergone surgery, medical procedure, or tooth extraction, and currently fighting an infection in the body.  

Prompt use of antibiotics is required to treat bloodstream infections. It can prevent complications from occurring in a person who can be hospitalized during treatment.

According to severity and cause, the length of treatment is depended. Antibiotics maybe need to be on for 1 to 2 weeks. 

What is Sepsis? 

Sepsis is an illness that is life-threatening caused by a body response to an infection. The immune system aims to protect from several infections and illnesses, but overdrive of the immune system in response to an infection can also be possible.

According to CDC, there are 1.5 million cases each year.  

Sepsis generally develops due to the release of immune system chemicals into the bloodstream to fight infection. But the inflammation causes throughout the body instead.

In case of severe sepsis, it can cause septic shock and is a medical emergency.  

There are mainly three stages of sepsis: septic shock, sepsis, and severe sepsis. Sepsis can happen if the patient is still in the hospital and recovering from a procedure, but always this is not the case.

Medical attention is important to seek if the patient is showing symptoms like temperature below 96.8°F or a fever above 101°F.  

The doctor order tests to make a diagnosis to determine the severity of infection if symptoms of sepsis are shown in a patient.

The very first test is a blood test to check complications like clotting problems, abnormal kidney or liver function, infection, and decreased amount of infection.   

Main Differences Between Bacteremia and Sepsis 

  1. Bacteremia can be prevented by practicing good hygiene and good control of diabetes. On the flip side, sepsis can be prevented by staying up to date on vaccinations and immediate care if infection signs develop.  
  2. In compromised individuals, bacteremia can occur in patients as a secondary infection, while sepsis can occur in patients due to the cytokines and inflammatory response released by the body in reaction to the coronavirus.  
  3. When it comes to symptoms, mild symptoms to acute fever and chills are symptoms of bacteremia. But rapid breathing and low blood pressure are symptoms of sepsis.   
  4. With the help of antibiotics through IV given in the hospital treats bacteremia. On the other hand, increase blood pressure medicine, extra oxygen, and IV antibiotics given in the hospital can treat sepsis.  
  5. Individuals with a debilitated immune system, already hospitalized or very sick, and with an underlying disease like cancer are at higher risk of getting bacteremia. But people being treated in ICU, seniors, and young children are at higher risk of developing sepsis. 
Difference Between Bacteremia and Sepsis
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2599470/
  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra043632

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