ESBL (Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase) are certain kinds of germs (bacteria) which make the enzyme beta-lactamase. Beta-lactamase can break down several types of antibiotics (medications that fight infection). So, when a person gets sick because of ESBL, the infection is harder to treat and may require different antibiotics. Infections due to ESBL usually affect the urinary tract and gut (intestine). They can also infect wounds and the blood. ESBL is mainly spread among people in hospitals and long-term care facilities. The elderly, individuals with a weakened immune system, and individuals having long term or frequent antibiotic treatment are also at an increased risk. Sometimes a person can carry ESBL and not be sick. This is called being colonized with ESBL. This person can spread ESBL to others. But because the person is not sick, no treatment is needed. ESBL infections, on the other hand, can be fatal if not treated properly.
ESBL can enter your body through the mouth, urinary tract or a wound. It can be passed directly from an infected or colonized person or indirectly through objects or unwashed hands. ESBL causes different symptoms depending on the location of the infection but may include a fever, pain and burning when urinating, diarrhea (may be bloody), stomach pains and cramps. Infections of skin wounds may cause redness around the wound and oozing of fluid. Infections in the blood may cause a high fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath and confusion.
The best prevention includes good hand washing or using alcohol based hand cleaners. Cuts and wounds should be kept clean and covered until healed. Diagnosis of an ESBL infection is made with a special lab test or culture using a sample of urine, stool, infected tissue, or blood. If you have been diagnosed with ESBL, talk with your doctor or specialist about the most current recommended treatment.