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Infections caused by Enterobacteriaceae producing extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs) are a growing clinical problem. However, there is wide variation in the level of resistance to third generation beta-lactams conferred by these enzymes.We studied 33 Klebsiella pneumoniae and 4 Escherichia coli isolates producing ESBLs obtained from outbreaks in 14 different hospitals and a nursing home in the United States. Microdilution testing with standard (104-5 colony-forming units/ml) and large (106-7 colony-forming units/ml) inocula, was used to compare the minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of ceftibuten, a novel oral oxyimino beta-lactam, with those of other third generation beta-lactams (cefotaxime, ceftazidime, aztreonam, cefixime, cefpodoxime and cefoxitin).Twenty-seven of the clinical isolates had well-characterized ESBLs of 10 different types, 7 of which produced TEM-1; 1 isolate also produced LXA-1. Two strains produced more than 1 ESBL. The remaining 10 strains produced 8 as yet uncharacterized types of ESBL. With large inocula 73% tested susceptible to ceftibuten, whereas 8 to 22% tested susceptible to the other third generation beta-lactam antibiotics. Ceftibuten MICs increased with higher inocula when tested against strains producing SHV-4 or SHV-5 and, to a lesser extent, strains producing multiple beta-lactamases. Only cefoxitin showed a smaller inoculum effect.Ceftibuten merits clinical evaluation in infections caused by bacteria that produce ESBLs.