The ever-evolving threat to patients – Prettpal Somel, Marketing Executive, Initial Medical

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  Posted by: Dental Design      14th November 2018

A dental practice is constantly at risk of contamination and infection. As patients routinely come and go, various viruses and bacterium are likely to be transferred onto surfaces or between people, resulting in a spread of disease unless proper decontamination protocols are in place.

This is especially relevant in the modern day as some bacteria, such as klebsiella pneumoniae, are not only capable of causing serious illness but are gaining resistance to antibiotics, making them a growing threat to people’s wellbeing.

A rise in resistance

Bacteria can resist antibiotics in a number of ways. These include evolving to gain new defences against the chemicals, changing their outer structure so that the antibiotics can’t penetrate their protection or even ejecting the attacking antibiotics before they can take effect.[i]Strains of bacteria that develop antibiotic resistance can continue to multiply and become a serious health hazard, possibly even resulting in epidemics if not brought under control in time.[ii]

There have been numerous reports about harmful bacteria such as E.coli becoming more resistant to medications[iii]and this is just one of many types of bacteria that has done so in recent years. Klebsiella pneumoniae has already formed a resistance to some forms of antimicrobial drugs,[iv]and is therefore a serious threat to patients and practitioners alike as it can cause a number of nasty illnesses, many of which are fatal. In fact, in 2016 a patient infected by klebsiella pneumoniae died after the bacteria resisted all 26 types of American antibiotics administered to defeat the infection, including colistin, which is often used only as a last resort.[v]

So what is klebsiella pneumoniae?

In simple terms, klebsiella pneumoniae is a type of bacteria that is commonly found in our intestines, our faeces and sometimes in small amounts in our oral cavities. Whilst it doesn’t cause infection in these places where it naturally occurs, when spread from person to person these bacteria can cause life-threatening illnesses including pneumonia, meningitis, bloodstream infections and respiratory tract infections.[vi]

The mortality rate for those with klebsiella-induced conditions is thought to be between 20-60%.[vii]One study, which found the mortality rate to be 47.9%, even made the link between higher risks of mortality and those that had bacteremia (bacteria in the blood) caused by the klebsiella pneumoniae.[viii]This high mortality rate just goes to show how important it is to prevent these bacteria from spreading in healthcare environments, as treating any infections poses difficulties.

From one to another

Due to the abundance of klebsiella pneumoniae bacterium in the world, keeping it under control can be challenging. As well as showing a resistance to antibiotics, klebsiella pneumoniae can pass easily through hand to hand contact, and can live on surfaces for extended periods of time. One study even found the bacteria thriving on the London underground,[ix]showing how easily they can be passed from place to place, especially in highly-populated environments.

In a dental practice setting this raises a number of concerns. Due to the steady daily flow of patients who may be harbouring the bacteria on their hands, as well as the fact that klebsiella pneumoniae can also be found in the oral cavity, dentists are likely to come into contact with it sooner or later. Indeed, one study even revealed that the bacteria can colonise in the root canals of teeth and cavities[x]if patients have poor oral hygiene, easily spreading to the hands of dental professionals and potentially to other patients from there.

Hand hygiene is essential

In light of the bacteria primarily being spread through interpersonal contact, it’s paramount that professionals exercise good hand hygiene at all times. This is considered the single most critical step in reducing instances of bacterial infection transmission in dental and healthcare settings,[xi]and is a good defence against many bacterial infections as it limits their potential to spread.

Hand hygiene procedures (hand washing) should be performed regularly, and professionals should be aware of which types of soap or hand sanitiser to use in order to maximise the protection afforded and keep patients safe. The Steri-7 Xtra Personal Care Range of products from Initial Medical is particularly effective. As well as deactivating 99.9999% of pathogens including klebsiella pneumoniae, the hand wash and hand rub are also re-moisturising and form a barrier of protection against bacteria that lasts for up to three hours, making them ideal for regular use within healthcare settings.

A widespread responsibility14

It is a professional’s responsibility to ensure that proper protocols are followed to prevent the spread of bacterial infection in the dental practice. By ensuring that good hand hygiene is followed and that effective pathogen neutralising products are used, you can do your bit to stop the spread of klebsiella pneumoniae.


For further information please visit Tel: 0870 850 4045




About Initial Medical Waste Experts

Initial Medical is an expert in healthcare waste management, providing a complete collection, disposal and recycling service for hazardous and non-hazardous waste and offensive waste produced by businesses and organisations within the UK.

The safe management of healthcare waste is vital to ensure your activities are not a risk to human health.  Initial Medical’s healthcare waste services ensure that all of your waste is stringently handled in compliance with legislation and in accordance with Safe Management of Healthcare Waste best practice guidelines, providing you with the peace of mind that you are adhering to current legislation.

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[i]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Questions on Antibiotic Resistance. Link:[Last accessed July 18].
[ii]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Questions on Antibiotic Resistance. Link:[Last accessed July 18].
[iii]Rasheed, M., Thajuddin, N., Ahamed, P., Teklemariam, Z., Jamil, K. Antimicrobial Drug Resistance in Strains of Escherichia Coli Isolated from Food Sources. Rev Inst Med Trop Sao Paulo. 2014; 56(4): 341–346.
[iv]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Klebsiella Pneumoniae in Healthcare Settings. Link:[Last accessed July 18].
[v]Chen, L., Todd, R., Kielbauch, J., Walters, M., Kallen, A. Notes from the Field: Pan-Resistant New Delhi Metallo-Beta-Lactamase-Producing Klebsiella Pneumoniae — Washoe County, Nevada, 2016. Link:[Last accessed July 18].
[vi]Anderson, D., Herve, R., Chen, L., Spelman, D., Hung, Y., Huang, A., Sexton, D., Raoult, D. Seasonal Variation in Klebsiella Pneumoniae Bloodstream Infection On 4 Continents. The Journal Of Infectious Diseases. 2008; 197(5): 752-756.
[vii]Science Daily. Breakthrough Against Hospital Superbug, Klebsiella Pneumoniae. Link:[Last accessed July 18].
[viii]Durdu, B., Hakyemez, I., Bolukcu, S., Okay, G., Gultepe, B., Aslan, T. Mortality Markers In Nosocomial Klebsiella Pneumoniae Bloodstream Infection. Springerplus. 2016; 5(1): 1892.
[ix]StaveleyHead. London Under The Microscope. Link:[Last accessed July 18].
[x]Subhash, T., Bhandi, S., Khaiser, I. Klebsiella Revisited! Endontology Review Article. Link:[Last accessed July 18].
[xi]Fluent, M., Hand Hygiene in the Dental Setting: Reducing the Risk of Infection. Compendium. 2013; 33(6): 1-4.

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