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The epidemiology of enterococci.

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Department of Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor 48105.


The enterococci are emerging as a significant cause of nosocomial infections, accounting for approximately 10% of hospital acquired infections. They are found as normal inhabitants of the human gastrointestinal tract, but may also colonize the oropharynx, vagina, perineal region and soft tissue wounds of asymptomatic patients. Until recently, evidence indicated that most enterococcal infections arose from patients' own endogenous flora. Recent studies, however, suggest that exogenous acquisition may occur and that person-to-person spread, probably on the hands of medical personnel, may be a significant mode of transmission of resistant enterococci within the hospital. The use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, especially cephalosporins, is another major factor in the increasing incidence of enterococcal infections. These findings suggest that barrier precautions, as applied with other resistant nosocomial pathogens, along with more judicial use of antibiotics may be beneficial in preventing nosocomial spread of resistant enterococci.

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