Surveillance for vancomycin-resistant enterococci: Type, rates, costs, and implications

Brooke N. Shadel, Laura A. Puzniak, Kathleen N. Gillespie, Steven J. Lawrence, Marin Kollef, Linda M. Mundy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. To evaluate 2 active surveillance strategies for detection of enteric vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) in an intensive care unit (ICU). DESIGN. Thirty-month prospective observational study. SETTING. ICU at a university-affiliated referral center. PATIENTS. All patients with an ICU stay of 24 hours or more were eligible for the study. INTERVENTION. Clinical active surveillance (CAS), involving culture of a rectal swab specimen for detection of VRE, was performed on admission, weekly while the patient was in the ICU, and at discharge. Laboratory-based active surveillance (LAS), involving culture of a stool specimen for detection of VRE, was performed on stool samples submitted for Clostridium difficile toxin detection. RESULTS. Enteric colonization with VRE was detected in 309 (17%) of 1,872 patients. The CAS method initially detected 280 (91%) of the 309 patients colonized with VRE, compared with 25 patients (8%) detected by LAS; colonization in 4 patients (1%) was initially detected by analysis of other clinical specimens. Most patients with colonization (76%) would have gone undetected by LAS alone, whereas use of the CAS method exclusively would have missed only 3 patients (1%) who were colonized. CAS cost $1,913 per month, or $57,395 for the 30-month study period. Cost savings of CAS from preventing cases of VRE colonization and bacteremia were estimated to range from $56,258 to $303,334 per month. CONCLUSIONS. A patient-based CAS strategy for detection of enteric colonization with VRE was superior to LAS. In this high-risk setting, CAS appeared to be the most efficient and cost-effective surveillance method. The modest costs of CAS were offset by the averted costs associated with the prevention of VRE colonization and bacteremia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1068-1075
Number of pages8
JournalInfection Control and Hospital Epidemiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006


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