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Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase Infection

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase Infection



Extended spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs) are enzymes made by bacteria. ESBL infections make it hard for some medicines to work. This can lead to serious health problems. Sometimes it can be deadly.

The Intestines.

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Certain bacteria cause the infections. Some people carry the bacteria without being sick, but they can still spread it to others. In the United States, the bacteria are spread by touching people. In other countries they may spread through food or water that has them.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in Asia and Northern Africa. Travel to these areas raises the risk. However, it can happen anywhere. It is also more common in older people.

Other things that raise the risk are:

  • Being in a hospital or nursing home for a long time
  • Having a history of antibiotic use
  • Having health problems such as:
  • Being on a ventilator
  • Using a tube to drain urine from the bladder


Symptoms depend on the where the ESBL infection is. They may be:

  • Fever or chills
  • Belly pain
  • Pain and burning when passing urine
  • Redness or warmth near a wound
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of hunger
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Breathing problems


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam may be done. Tests will be done to check for bacteria. They may be:

  • Urine tests
  • Blood tests
  • Stool tests
  • Swabs for cultures


Only certain antibiotics can treat ESBL infections.


The risk of ESBL may be lowered by:

  • Practicing proper hand washing
  • Using antibiotics as advised




  • Antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance.
  • ESBL-producing enterobacteriaceae in healthcare settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/ESBL.html.
  • Extended spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/drug-review/extended-spectrum-beta-lactamases-esbls.
  • Lee JH. Perspectives towards antibiotic resistance: from molecules to population. J Microbiol. 2019;57(3):181-184.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.