To demonstrate that nosocomial transmission of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) can be terminated and endemicity prevented despite widespread dissemination of an epidemic strain in a large tertiary-care referral hospital.
Two months after the index case was detected in the intensive care unit, 68 patients became either infected or colonized with an epidemic strain of vanB vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium despite standard infection control procedures. The following additional interventions were then introduced to control the outbreak: (1) formation of a VRE executive group; (2) rapid laboratory identification (30 to 48 hours) using culture and polymerase chain reaction detection of vanA and vanB resistance genes; (3) mass screening of all hospitalized patients with isolation of carriers and cohorting of contacts; (4) environmental screening and increased cleaning; (5) electronic flagging of medical records of contacts; and (6) antibiotic restrictions (third-generation cephalosporins and vancomycin).
A total of 19,658 patient and 24,396 environmental swabs were processed between July and December 2001. One hundred sixty-nine patients in 23 wards were colonized with a single strain of vanB vancomycin-resistant E. faecium. Introducing additional control measures rapidly brought the outbreak under control. Hospital-wide screening found 39 previously unidentified colonized patients, with only 7 more nonsegregat-ed patients being detected in the next 2 months. The outbreak was terminated within 3 months at a cost of $2.7 million (Australian dollars).
Despite widespread dissemination of VRE in a large acute care facility, eradication was achievable by a well-resourced, coordinated, multifaceted approach and was in accordance with good clinical governance.