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Vancomycin Intermittent-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

Vancomycin intermittent-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VISA) is a mutation of a bacterium that is spread easily by direct person-to-person contact. It was first discovered in mid-1996 when clinicians discovered the microbe in a Japanese infant's surgical wound. Similar isolates were later reported in Michigan and New Jersey. Both patients had received multiple courses of vancomycin for methicillin-resistant S. aureus infections.

Another mutation, vancomycin-resistant S. aureus (VRSA), is fully resistant to vancomycin.


VISA or VRSA enters a health care facility through an infected or colonized (symptom-free but infected) patient or colonized health care worker. It's spread during direct contact between the patient and care­giver or patient-to-patient. It may also be spread through patient contact with contaminated surfaces, such as an over-bed table. It's able to live for weeks on surfaces. It has been detected on patient gowns, bed linens, and handrails.

A colonized patient is more than 10 times as likely to become infected with the organism, such as through a breach in the immune system. Patients most at risk for resistant organisms include immunosup­pressed patients or those with severe underlying disease; patients with a history of taking vancomycin thiird-generation cephalosporins, or antibiotics targeted at anaerobic bacteria.

Symptoms and Signs

The carrier patient is commonly asymptomatic but may exhibit signs and symptoms related to the primary diagnosis. Depending on the source of the infection and the reason for treatment, the patient may exhibit cardiac, respiratory, or other major smptoms. Assessment should focus on the affected body system.

Diagnostic tests

The causative agent may be found incidentally when culture results show the organism. A person with no signs or symptoms of infection is considered colonized if VISA or VRSA can be isolated from stool or a rectal swab.


There is virtually no antibiotic to combat VISA or VRSA. Because no single antibiotic is currently available, the doctor may opt not to treat an infection at all. Instead, he may stop all antibiotics and simply wait for normal bacteria to repopulate and replace the strain. Combinations of various drugs may also be used, depending on the source of the infection.

To prevent the spread of VISA and VRSA, some hospitals perform weekly surveillance cultures on atrisk patients in intensive care units or oncology units and those transferred from a long-term care facility. Any colonized patient is then placed in contact isolation until his culture is negative or he's discharged. Colonization can last indefinitely, and no protocol is established for the length of time a patient should remain in isolation.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Hospital Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee proposed a two-level system of precautions to simplify isolation for resistant organisms. The first level calls for standard precautions, which incorporate features of universal blood and body fluid precautions and body substance isolation precautions. The second level calls for transmission­based precautions, implemented when a particular infection is suspected.

  • Wash hands before and after care of the patient. Good hand washing is the most effective way to prevent VISA and VRSA from spreading.
  • Don't touch potentially contaminated surfaces, such as a bed or bed stand, after removing gown and gloves.
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   Vancomycin Intermittent-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
   Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus
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