Pyogenic liver abscess with a focus on Klebsiella pneumoniae as a primary pathogen: an emerging disease with unique clinical characteristics

Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Feb;100(2):322-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.40310.x.


Objectives: Pyogenic liver abscess is a common intraabdominal infection. Historically, Escherichia coli (E. coli) has been the predominant causative agent. Klebsiella liver abscess (KLA) was first reported in Taiwan and has surpassed E. coli as the number one isolate from patients with hepatic abscesses in that country and reports from other countries, including the United States, have increased. We examined the microbiologic trends of pyogenic liver abscess at our institution to determine if a similar shift in etiologic agents was occurring.

Methods: We examined all cases of liver abscess at our institution from 1999 to 2003 via a retrospective chart review of inpatient records and reviewed the English literature via a MEDLINE search for all U.S. cases of KLA.

Results: Since 1966, only 12 cases of KLA have been reported in the United States. We report six cases of KLA at our institution alone; 2 patients were not Asian, and 4 were not diabetic. Klebsiella pneumoniae (K. pneumoniae) was the most common cause of pyogenic hepatic abscess at our institution over the last 5-yr period. When comparing Klebsiella versus other causes of pyogenic liver abscess, there were no significant differences in demographics or laboratory findings; however, most of our Klebsiella cases occurred among Filipinos. Review of the 18 cases of K. pneumoniae liver abscess in the United States showed that Klebsiella cases occurred predominantly among middle-aged men; 83% had concurrent bacteremia and 28% had metastatic complications. An increasing number of cases were reported from the United States since the mid-1990s.

Conclusions: These data suggest that KLA may represent an emerging disease in Western countries, such as the United States. The diagnosis of K. pneumoniae should be considered in all cases of liver abscess, and appropriate antibiotic therapy and a diagnostic work-up for metastatic complications should be employed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Klebsiella Infections / diagnosis*
  • Klebsiella Infections / drug therapy
  • Klebsiella Infections / epidemiology
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae*
  • Liver Abscess, Pyogenic / diagnosis*
  • Liver Abscess, Pyogenic / drug therapy
  • Liver Abscess, Pyogenic / epidemiology
  • Liver Abscess, Pyogenic / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • United States / epidemiology