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Extended Spectrum Beta-lactamase Producing Bacteria (ESBL)

Learning about Extended Spectrum Beta-lactamase Producing Bacteria (ESBL) in the Hospital

​​What are ESBLs?

  • ESBLs are a group of germs (bacteria) that make enzymes called beta-lactamase. These enzymes cause commonly-used antibiotics not to work.

How does it spread?

  • ESBL can be found, in stool, urine, or in wounds. It can also live on hard surfaces (e.g., countertops, toilets, equipment).
  • It can be spread from person-to-person on hands and equipment that isn’t properly cleaned between uses. This can happen in the community or in health​care sites; you likely won’t know where you came into contact with ESBL.

How is it treated?

  • People infected with ESBL may be given antibiotics. It’s very important to finish the prescription for antibiotics, even if you’re feeling better.

What do I do if I have or have had ESBL?

  • Let the staff know you have or have had ESBL.
    • A sign may be put on your door reminding people to use extra precautions.
    • Caregivers may wear a gown over their clothes and wear gloves.

What can I do to decrease the spread of ESBL?

  • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub (with at least 70% alcohol in it). Antibacterial soaps are not recommended or needed most of the time.
  • Use antibiotics wisely. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria develop because antibiotics aren’t used or taken properly.
    • Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections. They don’t help for colds, the flu, or other viral infections.
    • Take all your antibiotics, even if you feel better. If you don’t finish them, it may not cure your infection.
    • Don’t use other people’s antibiotics. Different antibiotics are meant ​for different types of bacteria. Using the wrong one helps the germ become resistant to the antibiotic.
  • Don’t share personal items (e.g., towels, clothing, bedding, bar soap, razors, or sports equipment).
  • Wash clothing with regular laundry soap in the regular wash cycle.
  • Clean shared items (e.g., sports equipment or surfaces like counters) with a household disinfectant.
  • See a doctor for any signs of an infection.
  • Cover wounds that are draining with a clean, dry dressing.​

For more information:

Current as of: March 20, 2017

Author: Infection Prevention and Control, Alberta Health Services