Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Infectious Diseases and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Does vancomycin prescribing intervention affect vancomycin-resistant enterococcus infection and colonization in hospitals? A systematic review

Monique A de Bruin1* and Lee W Riley2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Medicine Residency Office S101 (m/c 5109), Stanford, CA 94305, USA

2 Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley 140 Warren Hall, Berkeley, CA, 94720, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Infectious Diseases 2007, 7:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-7-24

Published: 10 April 2007



Vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE) is a major cause of nosocomial infections in the United States and may be associated with greater morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs than vancomycin-susceptible enterococcus. Current guidelines for the control of VRE include prudent use of vancomycin. While vancomycin exposure appears to be a risk factor for VRE acquisition in individual patients, the effect of vancomycin usage at the population level is not known. We conducted a systematic review to determine the impact of reducing vancomycin use through prescribing interventions on the prevalence and incidence of VRE colonization and infection in hospitals within the United States.


To identify relevant studies, we searched three electronic databases, and hand searched selected journals. Thirteen studies from 12 articles met our inclusion criteria. Data were extracted and summarized for study setting, design, patient characteristics, types of intervention(s), and outcome measures. The relative risk, 95% confidence interval, and p-value associated with change in VRE acquisition pre- and post-vancomycin prescription interventions were calculated and compared. Heterogeneity in study results was formally explored by stratified analysis.


No randomized clinical trials on this topic were found. Each of the 13 included studies used a quasi-experimental design of low hierarchy. Seven of the 13 studies reported statistically significant reductions in VRE acquisition following interventions, three studies reported no significant change, and three studies reported increases in VRE acquisition, one of which reported statistical significance. Results ranged from a reduction of 82.5% to an increase of 475%. Studies of specific wards, which included sicker patients, were more likely to report positive results than studies of an entire hospital including general inpatients (Fisher's exact test 0.029). The type of intervention, endemicity status, type of study design, and the duration of intervention were not found to significantly modify the results. Among the six studies that implemented vancomycin reduction strategies as the sole intervention, two of six (33%) found a significant reduction in VRE colonization and/or infection. In contrast, among studies implementing additional VRE control measures, five of seven (71%) reported a significant reduction.


It was not possible to conclusively determine a potential role for vancomycin usage reductions in controlling VRE colonization and infection in hospitals in the United States. The effectiveness of such interventions and their sustainability remains poorly defined because of the heterogeneity and quality of studies. Future research using high-quality study designs and implementing vancomycin as the sole intervention are needed to answer this question.