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JAAPA. 2014 Mar;27(3):14-7. doi: 10.1097/

What are extended-spectrum beta-lactamases?

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S. Scott Sutton is an associate professor at the University of South Carolina's College of Pharmacy, and a clinical pharmacist in medicine, infectious diseases, and research at Dorn VA Medical Center, both in Columbia, S.C. The author has disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.


The emergence and spread of extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs) in Gram-negative bacteria pose important challenges for clinicians, as management options for these organisms are limited. The emergence of ESBL-producing Gram-negative bacteria is one of the most significant epidemiologic changes in infectious diseases during recent years. Failure to treat with an antibiotic active against ESBL-producing organisms is associated with increased patient morbidity and mortality. Carbapenems are considered the primary antibacterials for infections caused by ESBL-producing organisms but their overuse poses significant cause for concern.

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