Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase (ESBL) Producing Bacteria – Information for patients, relatives and carers

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-835/2023
  • Departments: Infection Prevention and Control
  • Last Updated: 1 August 2023


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information. Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and the healthcare team, however may act as a starting point for discussion.

If after reading it, if you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.

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 ESBL producing bacteria 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 ESBL producing bacteria 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 ESBL producing bacteria 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.

How to prevent the spread of ESBL producing bacteria?

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 or 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 ESBL producing bacteria 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.

 Who can I contact with any queries or concerns I may have?

If you, your family or carers have any questions or concerns surrounding VRE. Please contact Hull University Teaching Hospitals Infection Prevention and Control Team (IPCT) via the below contact routes:

Telephone: 01482 623967

Between 8am-4pm

Email: hyp-tr.huth-ipc@nhs.net

Please use the space below to write any questions you may have for your clinical team or infection prevention control team.

This leaflet was produced by the Infection Prevention and Control Department, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and will be reviewed in 2026.

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

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.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

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