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Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase Infection
by Sarah J. Kerr, BA
ESBLs are enzymes that are produced by bacteria. The enzymes make the bacteria resistant to many kinds of antibiotics.
It is possible to carry these bacteria without being sick. This is called being colonized. A person who is colonized can still spread the infection to others. The bacteria that carry the enzymes can cause serious infections, such as those in the:
If not treated, the condition can be fatal.
This condition occurs when the body is infected with bacteria. These bacteria produce enzymes that make the infection resistant to many kinds of antibiotics. That is why it is so hard to treat.
These bacteria can be easily spread in close living areas, like hospitals. They are most often spread by:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that increase your risk of being colonized by or infected with ESBL include:
Symptoms depend on the location of the infection and may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
The bacteria in the samples are then tested to see if it they are resistant to certain antibiotics.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. There are only a few antibiotics that can be used to treat this infection.
It is also important to take steps to control the spread of ESBL infections, such as:
To help reduce your chance of an ESBL infection:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Public Health Agency of Canada
Dhillon RH, Clark J. ESBLs: a clear and present danger? Crit Care Res Pract. 2012;2012:1-11.
Doi Y, Adams J, O'Keefe Alexandra, Quereshi Z, Ewan L, Paterson DS. Community-acquired extended spectrum beta-lactamase producers, United States. Emerg Infect Dis. 2007;13(7): 1121-1123.
Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs): Guidance, data, analysis. Public Health England website. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/extended-spectrum-beta-lactamases-esbls-guidance-data-analysis. Published July 1, 2014. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Paterson DL, Bonomo RA. Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases: a clinical update. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2005;18(4):657–686.
Seigel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M. Management of multidrug-resistant organisms in healthcare settings, 2006. Available at:
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Updated December 29, 2009. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Last reviewed May 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
Last Updated: 6/19/2014
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