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Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)?

ESBL is an enzyme made by some bacteria. The enzyme prevents certain antibiotics from being able to kill the bacteria. The bacteria then become resistant to the antibiotics. This means stronger antibiotics must be used to kill the bacteria. ESBL infections usually occur in the urinary tract, lungs, skin, blood, or abdomen. ESBL infections are serious and can be life-threatening.

How is ESBL spread?

What increases my risk of infection with ESBL?

Bacteria that produce ESBL live in your bowel and other parts of your body. When your immune system is weak, the risk for ESBL infection increases. The following may weaken your immune system and increase your infection risk:

How is ESBL diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your health conditions and the medicines you take. Tell your provider about any recent hospital stays or surgeries. Healthcare providers will take samples of your blood, urine, bowel movement, or wounds. These samples are tested for infection. Other people who have been in contact with you may also be tested for ESBL.

How is ESBL treated?

Treatment may require hospital stays and long-term follow-up care. Any delay in treatment can worsen the infection. Healthcare providers will do tests to find which antibiotics still work against the bacteria that are causing your infection. Several kinds of antibiotics may need to be tried. You may be given 2 or more antibiotics at the same time. Your healthcare provider may ask if you received antibiotics within the past month. This will help him or her choose different antibiotics to lower the risk for resistance.

How can I help prevent the spread of ESBL?

You may be moved to a private room if you are in a healthcare setting. Healthcare providers and visitors may wear gowns and gloves during your care. Everyone must wash their hands before and after they leave your room. You can help prevent the spread of ESBL at home by doing the following:

Further information

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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