Molecular epidemiology of vancomycin-resistant enterococci from 6 hospitals in New York State
Background: Vancomycin resistance among enterococci is an emerging nosocomial problem. Consequently, it is important to understand the distribution of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) within and between hospitals to implement appropriate infection control measures. Methods: In this study, 116 VRE isolates obtained from patients in 6 New York State hospitals were analyzed by antibiotic susceptibility testing, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) fingerprinting, plasmid profile analysis, vanA and vanB polymerase chain reaction, and DNA:DNA hybridization with vanA and vanB probes. Results: PFGE and plasmid typing generally agreed, but plasmid profiles were more variable. These analyses revealed that genetic heterogeneity among isolates from within each of the 6 hospitals varied considerably. Among 23 Enterococcus faecium isolates from one hospital, there were only 3 PFGE types, and 20 isolates had the same type. However, in another hospital, each isolate was genetically distinct. Closely related strains were not found in separate hospitals. VRE strains with vanA genes and strains with vanB genes were found in 3 hospitals. Both plasmid and chromosomal carriage of these genes was detected. Conclusions: PFGE typing showed that nosocomial VRE transmission had occurred in some hospitals. However, there was no evidence for it in others. Neither was there evidence for intrahospital transmission or for emergence of an endemic strain. These observations demonstrate that it is important to evaluate genetic heterogeneity among VRE before implementation of infection control measures. PFGE is the method of choice for epidemiologic typing, but polymerase chain reaction, plasmid, and hybridization studies can provide important information concerning the presence and potential for transfer of vancomycin resistance genes.