Objective: To determine the efficacy of the use of gloves and gowns compared with that of the use of gloves alone for the prevention of nosocomial transmission of vancomycin-resistant enterococci.
Design: Epidemiologic study and controlled, nonrandomized clinical trial.
Setting: University-affiliated, 900-bed, urban teaching hospital in which vancomycin-resistant enterococci are endemic.
Patients: 181 consecutive patients admitted to the medical intensive care unit for 48 hours or more.
Intervention: It was determined that all hospital employees would always use gloves and gowns when attending 8 particular beds in the medical intensive care unit and would always use gloves alone when attending 8 others. Compliance with precautions was monitored weekly. Rectal surveillance cultures were taken from patients daily. Cultures of environmental surfaces, such as those of bed rails, bedside tables, and other frequently touched objects in patient rooms and common areas, were taken monthly. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis was used for molecular epidemiologic typing of vancomycin-resistant enterococci.
Measurements: The number of patients becoming colonized by vancomycin-resistant enterococci; the number of days to acquisition of vancomycin-resistant enterococci; and other measurements, including nosocomial infections, length of hospital stay, and mortality rates.
Results: The 93 patients in glove-and-gown rooms and the 88 patients in glove-only rooms had similar demographic and clinical characteristics. Fifteen (16.1%) patients in the glove-and-gown group and 13 (14.8%) in the glove-only group had vancomycin-resistant enterococci on admission to the medical intensive care unit. Twenty-four (25.8%) patients in the glove-and-gown group and 21 (23.9%) in the glove-only group acquired vancomycin-resistant enterococci in the medical intensive care unit. The mean times to colonization among the patients who became colonized were 8.0 days in the glove-and-gown group and 7.1 days in the glove-only group. None of these comparisons were statistically significant. Risk factors for acquisition of vancomycin-resistant enterococci induced length of stay in the medical intensive care unit, use of enteral feeding, and use of sucralfate. Compliance with precautions was 79% in glove-and-gown rooms and 62% in glove-only rooms (P < 0.001). Only 25 of 397 (6.3%) environmental cultures were positive for vancomycin-resistant enterococci. Nineteen types of vancomycin-resistant enterococci were documented by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis during the study period.
Conclusions: Universal use of gloves and gowns was no better than universal use of gloves only in preventing rectal colonization by vancomycin-resistant enterococci in a medical intensive care unit of a hospital in which vancomycin-resistant enterococci are endemic. Because the use of gowns and gloves together may be associated with better compliance and may help prevent transmission of other infectious agents, this finding may not be applicable to outbreaks caused by single strains or hospitals in which the prevalence of vancomycin-resistant enterococci is low.