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Volume 50, Number 4, August 2017

Faster and economical screening for vancomycin-resistant enterococci by sequential use of chromogenic agar and real-time polymerase chain reaction 

Thean Yen Tan, Boran Jiang, Lily Siew Yong Ng


Corresponding author:

Thean Yen Tan, Corresponding author. Department of Laboratory Medicine, Changi General Hospital, 2 Simei Street 3, Singapore, 529889, Singapore 


Background and purpose: 

Screening for vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) by culture takes days to generate results, while polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing directly from clinical specimens lacks specificity. The aims of this study were to develop a real-time PCR to detect and identify Enterococcus faecium, Enterococcus faecalis, and vanA and vanB genes, and to evaluate the impact of this PCR on test-reporting times when performing it directly from suspect VRE isolates present on screening chromogenic media. 



The tetraplex PCR primers were designed to amplify E. faecium, E. faecalis, and vanA and vanB genes, with melt-curve analysis of PCR products. Following analytical and clinical validation of the molecular assay, PCR testing was performed for target colonies present on VRE chromogenic media. PCR results were evaluated against conventional phenotypic identification and susceptibility testing, with the time to result being monitored for both modalities. 



A total of 519 colonies from clinical specimens were tested concurrently by real-time PCR and phenotypic methods. In all, 223 isolates were identified with phenotypic vancomycin resistance (vanA, n = 108; vanB, n = 105; non-vanA/vanB = 10), with complete agreement between PCR and phenotypic testing for vancomycin-resistant E. faecium and E. faecalis. The majority (88.6%) of PCR results were reported, on average, 24.8 hours earlier than those of phenotypic testing, with 68% reduction in total costs.




The use of culture on selective media, followed by direct colony PCR confirmation allows faster and economical VRE screening. 


Key words:

chromogenic agar, Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, vancomycin resistance, vanA, vanB