Difference Between E Coli and Klebsiella Pneumoniae

Difference – E Coli vs Klebsiella Pneumoniae

E coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae are two types of bacteria which act as causative organisms for various infections in our body. Humans are always exposed to various types of pathogenic microorganisms. Some of these organisms might not do any harm to us but most of them, in a lethal number can result in various pathological conditions, affecting almost all the systems in our body. E coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae are two such organisms and although their sites of invasion and diseases caused may vary from one type to another, most people tend to confuse these two bacteria, probably due to lack of knowledge about what these exactly are and their pathological significance in the human body. The main difference between  E Coli and Klebsiella pneuomoniae is their site of infection; E Coli invades the gastrointestinal system and urinary tract while Klebsiella pneuomoniae targets the respiratory system. 

This article explores in detail,

1. What is E coli? How does it Spread? Diseases Caused by E coli, Treatment and Prevention

2. What is Klebsiella pneumoniae? How does it Spread? Diseases Caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae, Treatment and Prevention

3. Difference Between E coli and Klebsiella Pneumoniae

Difference Between E Coli and Klebsiella Pneumoniae - Comparison Summary

What is E Coli

E Coli is a part of natural bacterial flora, living in human intestines which have several strains depending on their pathogenicity and genetic make-up. Most of these strains are harmless to humans except for few including, O157:H7 which are highly invasive, affecting humans in dangerous ways, with the potential of causing anemia, renal failure, and even death.

E Coli can enter the human body through food and water, which has been contaminated with stools of an infected person. For example, food items like meat, milk or dairy products and raw fruits and vegetables are most likely to get contaminated with this bacterial pathogen due to their unsafe or unhygienic ways of preparation and consumption. Other than that, this can spread through direct contact, especially when a person doesn’t wash his hands after defecation –  the residual bacteria can enter someone else’s body by touching contaminated objects.

Patients with E Coli infection will usually experience bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting which might be associated with a mild to moderate fever, often noticeable following 2-3 days after the initial exposure. Children are highly likely to get severely ill than adults. patients with weakened immune systems, alcoholics, diabetes mellitus and malignancies usually experience more severe attacks than the rest.

Your doctor will take a complete history from you about any exposure to contaminated food or water, travel history or any direct contact with an infected person. He will also assess you to elicit signs such as abdominal tenderness due to ongoing infection which will then be followed by investigations to isolate E Coli bacteria in a stool sample – Stool culture.

It is important to carry out immediate treatments especially to relieve pain and replace fluid and electrolyte imbalances, and specific antibiotic therapy can be initiated once the diagnosis is confirmed. Untreated patients can end up in dehydration; therefore, a high fluid intake is always recommended. Patients who are continuously passing out will be given fluid intravenously since the main concern is to prevent any shock from loss of fluid and electrolyte imbalances.


Practicing safe food preparation techniques is the key to preventing E Coli infections.

  • Proper food handling and avoiding consumption of raw fruits and vegetables unless hygienically washed and cleaned.
  • Washing hands before preparing food and eating
  • Washing hands after using the washroom
  • Avoiding cross contamination by using properly cleaned utensils.
  • Avoiding using non-pasteurized dairy products especially milk.
  • Using boiled and chlorinated water.
  • Staying away from food preparation when you have diarrhea or vomiting associated with any of the signs and symptoms associated with ongoing infections.

Difference Between E Coli and Klebsiella Pneumoniae

What is Klebsiella Pneumoniae

This is a type of Gram-negative bacteria which is non-motile, encapsulated and facultative anaerobic in nature with a rod-like shape. It also owns the characteristic feature of being able to ferment lactose on a medium of MacConkey agar.

Although Klebsiella pneumoniae is a part of the normal flora in oral cavity, skin and colon, it can result in pathological changes of lungs in case of aspiration or inhalation. These are known to spread from one person to another as nosocomial infections and can easily invade the alveoli of lungs, leading to blood mixed sputum in affected individuals.

As far as the clinical significance of this pathogenic organisms is concerned, the corresponding infections are usually seen in patients with poor immunity systems with some sort of immune suppression. In fact, most affected individuals fall into the category of old or middle-aged men with chronic debilitating illnesses such as Diabetes, chronic alcoholism and its consequent malignant conditions such as chronic liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), steroid therapy and renal failure. Moreover, patients who are being treated in an ICU setting are also at a high risk of getting infected by Klebsiella pneumonia, accounting for more than 30% of ICU deaths which occur as a result of hospital-acquired pneumonia.

Other common respiratory conditions caused by Klebsiella include Bronchopneumonia and Bronchitis which ultimately increases the susceptibility to other lung conditions such as lung abscess, cavity formation, emphysema and pleural adhesion. This can also result in thrombophlebitis, urinary tract infection, cholecystitis, upper respiratory tract infections, wound infections, osteomyelitis, meningitis and bacteremia which can eventually end up in septicemia, invading blood.

The presentation of patients affected by Klebsiella pneumoniae may vary from one person to another depending on the primary pathology and strength of the immune system, yet the mortality rate is said to be very high even with the treatment with specific antibiotics.

According to latest research studies, this particular species of bacteria is found naturally in soil, with the capacity to fix nitrogen in anaerobic conditions and known to play a major role in increasing the harvest of various crop cultivation including paddy and herbs.

Main Difference - E Coli vs Klebsiella Pneumoniae

Difference Between E Coli and Klebsiella Pneumoniae

Both these types are a part of natural flora in our body, but their rapid increase in number due to various reasons can result in severe complications which can even result in death, if not managed promptly and properly.

The major difference between E Coli and Klebsiella pneumonia lie on the fact that they invade different sites and act in different ways when it comes to the basic pathophysiology.

Sites Affected

E Coli is an organism which mostly invades our gastrointestinal system (specifically the colon) and urinary tract (giving rise to UTI).

Klebsiella pneuomoniae usually target the respiratory system – alveoli of the lungs.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of the invasion of the bacteria can vary depending on the affected sites, but in immune suppressed patients both these infections can pop up at once, which might need extensive investigations to establish the diagnosis.

Image Courtesy:

“EscherichiaColi NIAID” ByRocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH – NIAID (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“Klebsiella pneumoniae 01” (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music