ESBL (Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase) Producing Bacteria

  • Reference Number: HEY-785/2016
  • Departments: Infection Prevention and Control


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about ESBL producing bacteria. Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your doctor but may act as a starting point for discussion. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team who has been caring for you.

What ARE ESBL Producing bacteria?

ESBL (Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase) are enzymes which are produced by certain groups of bacteria.

When the enzymes are produced and an infection occurs, treatment is more difficult due to the enzyme breaking down certain groups of antibiotics.

 How might they affect me?

These bacteria can usually be found in the bowel and live there without causing any harm. This is called ‘colonisation.’

However, sometimes they can be transferred to other areas and cause infections, which may make you feel unwell, for example, urine, chest, wound or bloodstream infections.

How are they spread?

They are found in community and hospital environments and can commonly spread from person to person through poor hand hygiene or through contact with infected equipment or the environment.

Are certain people more at risk?

People in hospital are generally more likely to be at a greater risk of developing ESBL infections because illness and certain types of treatments may weaken their bodies defence mechanisms.

This includes people that have urinary catheters, those who have had a lot of medical care, those on antibiotics and the elderly.

Is it treatable?

If you do have an infection it can be treated. Medical staff caring for you will advise if treatment is required, and prescribe appropriate antibiotics. If you are carrying the bacteria without any signs of infection (‘colonisation’), then usually no treatment will be needed. 

Can the spread be controlled?

You may be moved to a side room to prevent the spread to other patients. Good hand hygiene is essential. Hands should be washed with soap and water or decontaminated with a hand sanitizer.

Staff caring for you will wear aprons and gloves when they are providing direct cares, and they will wash their hands before and after they have cared for you. Please do not be afraid to ask staff if they have washed their hands. 

 Are my visitors / Family at risk?

No. ESBL producing bacteria do not pose any danger to otherwise healthy people or children. Individuals who are already unwell in hospital are more at risk because their body’s defence systems may be weakened.

Visitors will be asked to wash their hands before and after they visit you. They do not need to wear aprons and gloves unless they are performing personal cares for you, such as bathing etc. 

Will I have to stay in hospital until it is cleared?

No. Having these bacteria will not affect how long you will stay in hospital. But if you have an infection we will want to be sure that you are medically fit before you go home. 

Are any special precautions required at home?

No. Good personal hygiene and keeping a clean environment are sufficient. If you come into hospital again the staff will check to see if you have any signs of infection. They may test you to check if you still have the bacteria. If you do, the staff will talk to you about treatment options.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the Infection Prevention and Control Team on: on tel no: (01482) 674869 or 623066

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

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