β-Lactamase evolution presents to the infectious disease community a major challenge in the treatment of infections caused by multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria. Because over 1,000 of these naturally occurring β-lactamases exist, attempts to correlate structure and function have become daunting. Although new enzymes in the extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) families are frequently identified, the older CTX-M-14 and CTX-M-15 enzymes have become the most prevalent ESBLs in global surveillance. Carbapenemases with either serine-based or zinc-facilitated hydrolysis mechanisms are posing some of the most critical problems. Most geographical regions now report KPC serine carbapenemases and the metallo-β-lactamases VIM, IMP, and NDM-1, even though NDM-1 was only recently identified. The rapid emergence of these newer enzymes, with multiple β-lactamases appearing in a single organism, makes the design of new β-lactamase inactivators or β-lactamase-stable β-lactams all the more difficult. Combination therapy will likely be required to counteract the continuing evolution of these insidious enzymes in multidrug-resistant pathogens.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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