Microbiological features of vancomycin in the 21st century: minimum inhibitory concentration creep, bactericidal/static activity, and applied breakpoints to predict clinical outcomes or detect resistant strains

Clin Infect Dis. 2006 Jan 1;42 Suppl 1:S13-24. doi: 10.1086/491710.


The results of vancomycin susceptibility tests document that the drug continues to have activity against a wide variety of gram-positive pathogens. The subsequent emergence of vancomycin-resistant enterococci, the persistent failure of vancomycin therapy against strains tested as susceptible, and the more recent discoveries of vancomycin-intermediate or -resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains have compromised the use of vancomycin. Although analyses of surveillance studies fail to demonstrate "minimum inhibitory concentration creep" among populations of wild-type enterococci, streptococci, or staphylococci, enterococci with acquired resistance to vancomycin continue to evolve. The dominantly used automated commercial tests poorly recognize vancomycin-intermediate S. aureus, heteroresistant vancomycin-intermediate S. aureus, and vancomycin-resistant S. aureus isolates, which necessitates the use of expensive supplemental screening tests. Monitoring for appropriate serum levels of vancomycin and determinations of the bactericidal activity of vancomycin appear to best predict clinical outcome, thus creating additional diagnostic burdens for clinical laboratories. Improvements in current test methods with breakpoint criteria and expanded use of the vancomycin bactericidal assays to detect "tolerant" strains will be required to increase the value of vancomycin treatment or to refocus therapy toward the use of newer, alternative agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacteremia / drug therapy*
  • Bacteremia / microbiology
  • Enterococcus faecium / drug effects
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Methicillin Resistance / drug effects
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / methods
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / standards
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / trends
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Vancomycin / pharmacology*
  • Vancomycin / therapeutic use*
  • Vancomycin Resistance


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Vancomycin