Health Protection Agency
Publication date: September 2005
Since 2003, new highly resistant strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli have become widespread in England and parts of Northern Ireland. These strains of E. coli are able to destroy a large number of common antibiotics, making the infections they cause very difficult to treat. The bacteria produce enzymes called extended-spectrum ß-lactamases (ESBLs) that destroy, and confer resistance to, antibiotics.
ESBL-producing microbes are not new, having first been recognised in the 1980s. But the new strains produce a particular type of ESBL, the CTX-M type, which is able to break down a wider range of antibiotics. These strains were unrecorded in the UK prior to 2000. They have spread rapidly since 2003, causing infections such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) in hospital patients as well as those treated in the community.
The emergence of CTX-M types is a concern for several reasons. This report describes investigations carried out by the Health Protection Agency and recommends further action.
Last reviewed: 17 June 2010