Objective: To describe the epidemiology of a cluster of vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VAREC) in a cardiothoracic surgery intensive care unit.
Design: A case series of patients identified through review of surveillance data on nosocomial infections, review of microbiologic records, and culture survey of patients in the unit.
Results: Six patients in the cardiothoracic surgery intensive care unit had VAREC with identical antimicrobic susceptibility patterns over a 6-month period. Four patients were identified with VAREC through prospective surveillance and 2 through retrospective review. Prior vancomycin use was seen more commonly in patients with VAREC (6/6, 100%) than in those without VAREC (3/12, 25%) (Fisher's exact test, p = .01). Six of the 7 patients with prior infection developed VAREC (85.7%). A prior nosocomial infection and prior exposure to vancomycin were found to be important variables in a logistic regression analysis. VAREC also was isolated from the environment. A combination of cohorting of patients and staff, and modifications of standard contact isolation practices eliminated the presence of VAREC from the cardiothoracic surgery intensive care unit.
Conclusions: The results suggest that prior administration of vancomycin, especially in the patient who develops nosocomial infection, can influence the acquisition of vancomycin-resistant enterococci and that VAREC may be transmitted from patient to patient. Using a modification of the standard infection control practice of isolation, we were able to control the spread of this resistant strain of E faecium.