A new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control suggests that the recent successive outbreaks of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) in a Greek neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) could have been caused by administration of antibiotics.
A team of physicians at the Aristotle University School of Medicine in Greece responded to two occurrences of VRE in their 44-bed NICU with a bundled intervention of active surveillance, enhanced infection control measures, optimization of antimicrobial usage, and investigation of potential risk factors for VRE colonization over a six-month period. Out of 253 newborns screened, 39.9 percent were found to be carriers of VRE. During the first wave of this outbreak a single clone predominated.
Antimicrobial usage, particularly administration of vancomycin and other glycopeptide antibiotics, was reduced significantly until the outbreak appeared to be over. Just as antimicrobial usage returned to previous levels, a new case of VRE was discovered and a second wave of the outbreak began.
Analysis of the data revealed antimicrobial treatment for late-onset neonatal sepsis and hospitalization during the outbreak as significant risk factors for VRE.
The authors conclude, "Both a high prevalence of VRE colonization and antimicrobial use promoted the transmission of VRE during this biphasic outbreak. Adherence to infection control measures and antimicrobial stewardship policies are of utmost importance."