CDC Reminds Clinical Laboratories and Healthcare Infection Preventionists of their Role in the Search and Containment of Vancomycin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA)
January 2022 Update
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently confirmed the 16th case of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) infection since 2002 in the United States. This is the second confirmed case identified in the United States in 2021. The two cases identified in 2021 are not epidemiologically linked and reflect the emergence of VRSA in two distinct patients and locations. The last confirmed case in the United States prior to 2021 was identified in 2015.
This serves as a reminder about the important role of clinical laboratories in the diagnosis of VRSA cases to ensure prompt recognition, isolation, and management by infection control personnel. This is an important opportunity for all laboratories to revisit their step-by-step problem-solving procedure or algorithm for detecting VRSA that is specific for their laboratory. A sample algorithm is available and highlights the recommended testing methodologies for detecting VRSA and actions based on testing results.
Furthermore, because of exchange of genetic material from vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the emergence of VRSA, CDC is asking clinical laboratories, when patients are identified with suspected or confirmed VRSA, to ensure that all VRE, MRSA, and VRSA isolates from these patients are saved. Following confirmation of VRSA, CDC recommends that all three isolate types (i.e., VRE, MRSA, and VRSA) be shared with public health partners, including CDC.
Immediately, while performing confirmatory susceptibility tests, notify the patient’s primary caregiver, patient-care personnel, and infection-control personnel regarding the presumptive identification of VRSA so that appropriate infection control precautions can be initiated promptly. It is also important to notify local and state public health departments.
Coordination with public health authorities is critical. CDC has issued specific infection control recommendations intended to reduce the transmission of VRSA (Investigation and Control of Vancomycin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA): 2015 Update pdf icon[PDF – 20 Pages]). Infection control precautions should remain in place until a defined endpoint has been determined in consultation with public health authorities.
VRSA infection continues to be a rare occurrence. A few existing factors seem to predispose case patients to VRSA infection, including:
- Prior MRSA and enterococcal infections or colonization
- Underlying conditions (such as chronic skin ulcers and diabetes)
- Previous treatment with vancomycin
Appropriate antimicrobial prescribing by healthcare providers, adherence to recommended infection control guidelines, and, ultimately, the control of both MRSA and VRE are necessary to prevent further emergence of VRSA strains.
Historical U.S. VRSA case count and geographical information:
|1||MI||2002||40||Plantar ulcers and
|Plantar soft tissue infection||Diabetes, dialysis|
|3||NY||2004||63||Urine from a nephrostomy tube||No infection||Multiple sclerosis, Diabetes, kidney stones|
|4||MI||2005||78||Toe wound||Gangrene||Diabetes, vascular disease|
|5||MI||2005||58||Surgical site wound after panniculectomy||Surgical site infection||Obesity|
|6||MI||2005||48||Plantar ulcer||Osteomyelitis||MVA, chronic ulcers|
|7||MI||2006||43||Triceps wound||Necrotizing fasciitis||Diabetes, dialysis, chronic ulcers|
|8||MI||2007||48||Toe wound||Osteomyelitis||Diabetes, obesity, chronic ulcers|
|9||MI||2007||54||Surgical site wound after foot amputation||Osteomyelitis||Diabetes, hepatic encephalopathy|
|10||MI||2009||53||Plantar foot wound||Plantar soft tissue infection||Diabetes, obesity, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis|
|11||DE||2010||64||Wound drainage||Prosthetic joint infection||Diabetes, end-stage renal disease, dialysis|
|12||DE||2010||83||Vaginal swab||Vaginal discharge||Chronic recurrent C. difficile infection, chronic UTIs, vesicoenteric fistula|
|13||DE||2012||70||Foot wound||Chronic wound possible osteomyelitis||Outpatient with chronic wound, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus|
|14||DE||2015||67||Toe wound||Chronic wound||Diabetes, end-stage renal disease requiring hemodialysis|
|15||MI||2021||88||Foot wound||Chronic wound||Diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, hypothyroidism, and anemia|
|16||NC||2021||55||Foot wound||Chronic wound||Diabetes, chronic lower extremity wounds|
For frequently asked questions on laboratory testing on VRSA visit: Laboratory Detection of Vancomycin-Intermediate/Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VISA/VRSA)
- Laboratory Detection of Vancomycin-Intermediate/Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VISA/VRSA)
- Recommendations for Preventing the Spread of Vancomycin Resistance Recommendations of the Hospital Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC)
- Siegel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M, et al. The Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC). Management of Multidrug-Resistant Organisms In Healthcare Settings, 2006.
- Investigation and Control of Vancomycin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA): 2015 Update pdf icon[PDF – 20 Pages]
- Interim Guidance for a Public Health Response to Contain Novel or Targeted Multidrug-resistant Organisms (MDROs)
For assistance contact CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion by e-mail at HAIoutbreak@cdc.gov.