According to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), there are an estimated 20,000 to 85,000 cases of VRE each year in U.S. hospitals.
It's considered a difficult problem in acute care because it is a form of bacteria that's resistant to an antibiotic that Lee described as "one of our final big guns that's reasonably priced." There are alternatives, but they are expensive, and concerns are that if those more costly drugs are used, resistance will develop to them as well.
Lee's project used 2006 and 2007 patient level admission and transfer data collected by California's Office of Statewide Planning and Development for all 29 hospitals in Orange County, which is buttressed by Los Angeles County to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, San Diego County to the south and Riverside County and San Bernardino County to the east.
It then calculated the flow of VRE colonized patients to other facilities, based on costs in the state database.
Lee says the next version of the study will include patterns of infection in nursing homes, and how they impact hospital infections, and vice versa.