Resistance in gram-negative bacteria: Enterobacteriaceae

Am J Infect Control. 2006 Jun;34(5 Suppl 1):S20-8; discussion S64-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2006.05.238.


The emergence and spread of resistance in Enterobacteriaceae are complicating the treatment of serious nosocomial infections and threatening to create species resistant to all currently available agents. Approximately 20% of Klebsiella pneumoniae infections and 31% of Enterobacter spp infections in intensive care units in the United States now involve strains not susceptible to third-generation cephalosporins. Such resistance in K pneumoniae to third-generation cephalosporins is typically caused by the acquisition of plasmids containing genes that encode for extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs), and these plasmids often carry other resistance genes as well. ESBL-producing K pneumoniae and Escherichia coli are now relatively common in healthcare settings and often exhibit multidrug resistance. ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae have now emerged in the community as well. Salmonella and other Enterobacteriaceae that cause gastroenteritis may also be ESBL producers, which is of relevance when children require treatment for invasive infections. Resistance of Enterobacter spp to third-generation cephalosporins is most typically caused by overproduction of AmpC beta-lactamases, and treatment with third-generation cephalosporins may select for AmpC-overproducing mutants. Some Enterobacter cloacae strains are now ESBL and AmpC producers, conferring resistance to both third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins. Quinolone resistance in Enterobacteriaceae is usually the result of chromosomal mutations leading to alterations in target enzymes or drug accumulation. More recently, however, plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance has been reported in K pneumoniae and E coli, associated with acquisition of the qnr gene. The vast majority of Enterobacteriaceae, including ESBL producers, remain susceptible to carbapenems, and these agents are considered preferred empiric therapy for serious Enterobacteriaceae infections. Carbapenem resistance, although rare, appears to be increasing. Particularly troublesome is the emergence of KPC-type carbapenemases in New York City. Better antibiotic stewardship and infection control are needed to prevent further spread of ESBLs and other forms of resistance in Enterobacteriaceae throughout the world.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbapenems / metabolism
  • Carbapenems / therapeutic use
  • Community-Acquired Infections / drug therapy
  • Community-Acquired Infections / microbiology
  • Enterobacteriaceae / drug effects*
  • Enterobacteriaceae / enzymology
  • Enterobacteriaceae Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Quinolones / metabolism
  • beta-Lactam Resistance / physiology*
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism*


  • Carbapenems
  • Quinolones
  • beta-Lactamases