Septicaemia vs. Bacteraemia: Understanding Bloodstream Infections

Bloodstream infections, or sepsis, are a serious medical condition that can cause damage to the body's organs and even lead to death in extreme cases. It's important to know the difference between two types of bloodstream infections: septicaemia and bacteraemia. While these two terms are often used interchangeably, there are significant differences between them that affect diagnosis and treatment.

The terms septicaemia and bacteraemia are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different things. The prefix "septi" means infective organisms in the bloodstream, while "bacteraemia" refers specifically to the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. In other words, all cases of septicaemia are cases of bacteraemia, but not all cases of bacteraemia are cases of septicaemia.


Septicaemia is an infection caused by the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. The bacteria can enter the bloodstream from an infection site such as a wound, urinary tract or lungs and can then spread to the whole body. The infection triggers an immune system response, which can cause inflammation and damage to the body's organs. Septicaemia, if not treated promptly, can lead to serious complications such as septic shock, multiple organ failure and even death.


Bacteraemia, on the other hand, is simply the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. It may not necessarily cause any symptoms or lead to an infection. In some cases, the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream is a normal occurrence and is not harmful. However, bacteraemia can also be a result of an infection somewhere else in the body. In this case, it can serve as a diagnostic clue for physicians and prompt further investigation into the underlying infection.


Symptoms of septicaemia include chills, high fever, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and confusion. If the infection spreads and causes sepsis, other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, organ failure, and even coma can occur. Bacteraemia, on the other hand, may not cause any noticeable symptoms. It is only when an underlying infection is present that bacteraemia can cause symptoms similar to those of septicaemia.

Both septicaemia and bacteraemia are treated with antibiotics. In severe cases of septicaemia, hospitalisation may be required to receive intravenous antibiotics, fluids, and other supportive care. It is crucial to seek medical attention for any suspected case of bloodstream infection as early diagnosis and treatment can save lives.


Bloodstream infections are a serious medical condition that needs prompt diagnosis and treatment. Understanding the differences between septicaemia and bacteraemia is important for proper diagnosis and treatment.

If you or someone you know has any signs or symptoms of a bloodstream infection, seek medical attention immediately. Remember early diagnosis and treatment can save lives. Stay safe!