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
- Urinary tract
- Respiratory tract
If not treated, the condition can be fatal.
The bacteria can travel to the intestines, causing a serious infection.
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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:
- Medical equipment
- The hands of health care workers
Factors that increase your risk of being colonized by or infected with ESBL include:
- Admission to an intensive care unit (ICU)
- Recent surgery
- A long hospital stay
- Use of invasive medical devices, such as a urinary catheter
- Antibiotic use
- Nursing home residence
urinary tract infections
- Use of a feeding tube
- Poor nutrition
Symptoms depend on the location of the infection and may include:
- Pain in abdomen
- Pain and burning with urination
- Signs of infection around a wound, such as redness or oozing discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble breathing
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
- Urine, stool, or blood tests
- Swab of the rectum or throat
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:
Preventing the spread of ESBL-producing bacteria to others by isolation,
handwashing, and other steps
- Avoiding unnecessary procedures or unnecessary use of antibiotics
To help reduce your chance of getting an ESBL infection:
- Wash your hands thoroughly, and ask others to wash their hands.
- Avoid coming into contact with people who have this infection.
- Making sure health care staff and visitors wash their hands before and after touching you or touching contaminated surfaces.
- Making sure health care staff and visitors use gloves.
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Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs). Public Health England website. Available at:
http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/ESBLs. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Paterson DL, Bonomo RA. Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases: a clinical update.
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Seigel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M. Management of multidrug-resistant organisms in healthcare settings, 2006. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/guidelines/MDROGuideline2006.pdf. Updated December 29, 2009. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Last reviewed May 2014 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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