Role of fecal incontinence in contamination of the environment with vancomycin-resistant enterococci

Am J Infect Control. 2003 Jun;31(4):221-5. doi: 10.1067/mic.2003.45.


Background: We tested the hypothesis that patients with vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) stool colonization who are continent of feces contaminate the environment less frequently than patients who are colonized and incontinent.

Methods: We prospectively examined the frequency of environmental VRE contamination in the rooms of 15 patients who were continent and 15 who were incontinent and VRE-colonized. Broth-enrichment cultures of bed rails, bedside table, and call buttons were performed at baseline, and 2 and 5 days after environmental disinfection. The numbers of VRE colonies isolated after directly plating environmental swabs onto agar were compared for the continent and incontinent groups.

Results: The percentages of patients with 1 or more positive environmental cultures for VRE were not significantly different for the groups of patients who were continent and incontinent at baseline (60% vs 73%, P =.45) or 2 days after disinfection (60% vs 80%, P =.24). The numbers of VRE colonies isolated by direct plating were not significantly different for the continent and incontinent groups (P =.42).

Conclusions: Environmental contamination occurs frequently in the rooms of patients who are continent, and those who are incontinent and VRE-colonized. Our findings suggest that similar infection control measures should be implemented for patients who are continent and incontinent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Enterococcus / isolation & purification*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Fecal Incontinence*
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vancomycin Resistance*