Epidemiology: Between 2 to 4 million patients each year develop health care-acquired infections in the United States. Infection resulting from vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) is now the second to third most common cause of nosocomial infections in the United States. VRE is most often transmitted by the contaminated hands, clothing, and equipment of health care workers. Patients with VRE bloodstream infections (BSIs) have increased rates of recurrent BSI (16.9% vs 3.7%, respectively, P < .0001), increased crude case fatality rates (relative risk [RR], 2.57; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.27-2.91), increased mortality because of bacteremia (RR, 1.79; 95% CI: 1.28-2.50), and increased hospital costs of $27,000 per episode of BSI (P = .04) compared with those with vancomycin-susceptible BSI. Additionally, transfer of the gene responsible for vancomycin resistance to S aureus has been demonstrated in vitro, and reports of clinical infections because of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus have been reported from many areas of the world, including the United States. Risk factors for VRE colonization and infection include prolonged length of hospital stay, use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, having an indwelling invasive device, and close proximity to another VRE-colonized or -infected patient; however, risk factors for developing VRE BSI among colonized patients have not been fully described.
Infection control: Infection control measures for VRE include antibiotic-usage control, reducing contamination of the environment with proper cleaning and disinfection, and reducing contamination of health care workers by use of contact precautions. Health care-acquired BSIs can also be effectively controlled by closely following central venous line prevention guidelines and complying with the central venous line bundle. Control and prevention of VRE colonization and thus infection would be expected to reduce morbidity, reduce health care costs, and save lives.