In February 1994, an outbreak of vancomycin-resistant (VREM) occurred in the oncology unit of a Dublin hospital. Between February and July 1994, VREM was isolated from 18 patients, one staff member and 14 environmental sites within the unit. The isolates also had high-level aminoglycoside and penicillin resistance. Three pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) types were identified, two of them from multiple patients and environmental sites. Plasmid typing allowed subdivision of PFGE types. A retrospective study of enterococci isolated from blood cultures between January 1991 and January 1994 showed that, before the outbreak, fewer than 2% of isolates were vancomycin-resistant but that the incidence of high-level gentamicin resistance had increased from 17% to 60% and ampicillin resistance from 22% to 51%. Among clinically significant non-blood-culture enterococci isolated between September and December 1993, fewer than 1% were vancomycin-resistant, 13% were ampicillin-resistant and 44% highly gentamicin-resistant. None produced ß-lactamase. High-content gentamicin disks (120 μg) and low-content vancomycin disks (5 μg) allowed simple, reliable detection of resistant enterococci. MICs of vancomycin and teicoplania determined by agar dilution and E-test agreed well, but values tended to be slightly lower by E-test.


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