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Home Topics Infectious Diseases Infections A-Z Klebsiella species General Information ›  General questions about the Enterobacteriaceae family

General questions about the Enterobacteriaceae family

How do you catch bacteria belonging to this family?

These bacteria live harmlessly in the gut of many people. They are opportunistic bacteria that pose a problem to debilitated people, such as those who are hospitalised, immunocompromised or elderly.

In general, infection with these bacteria can be avoided through the practise of good hygiene by healthcare workers and visitors to hospital; the environment should be kept clean and dry; equipment should be cleaned and sterilised accordingly; and circumspect antibiotic use employed by hospitals.

Who do these bacteria affect? Are some people more at risk?

Enterobacteriaceae infections usually occur in hospital patients and in particular those who are vulnerable or debilitated, such as patients in intensive care units, and on surgical wards. Some nursing homes have experienced problems with Enterobacteriaceae infections .

Enterobacteriaceae infections predominantly affect men and older people. It is not known why men are affected more than women, although this difference tails off in later years.

Enterobacteriaceae infections do not normally affect hospital staff or family members (unless they are suffering from a severe skin condition or debilitating disease).

In general, healthy people are at a low risk of infection from Enterobacteriaceae.

How do doctors diagnose Enterobacteriaceae infections?

In the case of blood poisoning, a clinician would make a diagnosis based on clinical symptoms such as high fever, and prescribe antibiotics accordingly. In order to establish which bacteria are causing the blood poisoning, a blood test is taken which identifies the bacteria responsible in a couple of days.

How can hospitals prevent the spread of Enterobacteriaceae infections?

In general, they can be avoided through the practice of good hygiene by healthcare workers and visitors to hospital; the environment should be kept clean and dry; equipment should be cleaned and sterilised accordingly; and circumspect antibiotic use employed by hospitals.

How do you measure blood poisoning rates caused by Enterobacteriaceae infections?

The Health Protection Agency maintains a voluntary surveillance database. Hospitals and labs send samples and reports of incidents to the Agency which it records. Details collated include the hospital where the case occurred, the organism, its antibiotic susceptibility, and the age and sex of the patient.

Why are numbers of cases rising?

This is mostly due to increased reporting, but could also be due to increased prevalence.


Last reviewed: 3 July 2008