Beta-lactam antimicrobial agents represent the most common treatment for bacterial infections and continue to be the leading cause of resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics among Gram-negative bacteria worldwide. The persistent exposure of bacterial strains to a multitude of beta-lactams has induced dynamic and continuous production and mutation of beta-lactamases in these bacteria, expanding their activity even against the newly developed beta-lactam antibiotics. These enzymes are known as extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs). The majority of ESBLs are derived from the widespread broad-spectrum beta-lactamases TEM-1 and SHV-1. There are also new families of ESBLs, including the CTX-M and OXA-type enzymes as well as novel unrelated beta-lactamases. In recent years, there has been an increased incidence and prevalence of ESBLs. ESBLs are mainly found in strains of Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae but have also been reported in other Enterobacteriaceae strains and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Infections with ESBL-producing bacterial strains are encountered singly or in outbreaks, especially in critical care units in hospitals, resulting in increasing cost of treatment and prolonged hospital stays. Not only may nursing home patients be an important reservoir of ESBL-containing multiple antibiotic-resistant organisms, but ambulatory patients with chronic conditions may also harbor ESBL-producing organisms.