Improving the assessment of vancomycin-resistant enterococci by routine screening

J Infect Dis. 2007 Feb 1;195(3):339-46. doi: 10.1086/510624. Epub 2006 Dec 27.


Background: As infection with vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) increases in hospitals, knowledge about VRE reservoirs and improved accuracy of epidemiologic measures are needed. Many assessments underestimate incidence by including prevalent carriers in at-risk populations. Routine surveillance cultures can substantially improve prevalence and incidence estimates, and assessing the range of improvement across diverse units is important.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study using accurate at-risk populations to evaluate the range of benefit of admission and weekly surveillance cultures in detecting unrecognized VRE in 14 patient-care units.

Results: We assessed 165 unit-months. The admission prevalence of VRE was 2.2%-27.2%, with admission surveillance providing 2.2-17-fold increased detection. Medical units were significantly more likely to admit VRE carriers than were surgical units. Monthly incidence was 0.8%-9.7%, with weekly surveillance providing 3.3-15.4-fold increased detection. The common practice of reporting incidence using the total number of patients, rather than patients at risk, underestimated incidence by one-third. Overall, routine surveillance prevented the misclassification of 43.0% (unit range, 0%-85.7%) of "incident" carriers on the basis of clinical cultures alone and increased VRE precaution days by 2.4-fold (unit range, 2.0-2.6-fold).

Conclusions: Routine surveillance markedly increases the detection of VRE, despite variability across patient-care units. Correct denominators prevent the substantial underestimation of incidence.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Carrier State / diagnosis
  • Carrier State / prevention & control*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / standards*
  • Disease Notification / standards
  • Enterococcus / drug effects*
  • Enterococcus / isolation & purification*
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / diagnosis
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vancomycin / pharmacology*
  • Vancomycin Resistance


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Vancomycin