Despite significant concern in the health care community regarding vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), there are no estimates of the total number of VRE infections that occur each year in US hospitals. Using data from a national survey of hospital discharges and a national antimicrobial resistance surveillance system, we estimated the annual number of US hospitalization with VRE bloodstream, urinary tract, and wound or intra-abdominal infections. Because of the inexact nature of hospital discharge diagnosis coding, we made both a conservative and liberal estimate of hospitalization with VRE infection by using a variety of data sources. For the years 2003 and 2004, we conservatively estimated that there were 20 777 and 20931 VRE infections, respectively; for those same years, the liberal estimates were 78330 and 85 586, respectively. Because there are such a large number of hospital discharges for which an infection is coded without an organism code, it is likely that the conservative estimate is an underestimate of the true burden. These estimates highlight the importance of controlling VRE and the need to develop improved methods for tracking the burden of such infections.
Fred C. Tenover
L. Clifford McDonald