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Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE)


 What is vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE)?
 What is the cause?
 What are the symptoms?
 How is it diagnosed?
 How is it treated?
 How can I take care of myself?
 How can I help prevent the spread of VRE?

What is vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE)?

Enterococcus is a type of bacteria. It commonly lives in the intestines and in the female genital organs. Most of the time it does not cause infections. When it does cause an infection, antibiotics are used to treat the infection. Vancomycin is an antibiotic often used to treat the infection. However, some enterococcus bacteria have become resistant to vancomycin. This means the antibiotic is not able to kill the bacteria and cure the infection. These bacteria are called vancomycin-resistant enterococcus, or VRE.

What is the cause?

When bacteria are exposed to antibiotics intended to kill them, some of them can change and become resistant to the antibiotics.

You are more likely to have a VRE infection if:

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of VRE infection depend on where the infection is. You might have the infection in your urinary tract, skin, bowel, or blood.

Symptoms may include:

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Tests may include:

Lab tests can show what kind of bacteria are causing the infection. They can also find out what antibiotics should work. The tests may take 48 to 72 hours.

If the infection may be coming from medical equipment, like a central IV line or a catheter, the equipment may be removed for testing and replaced with sterile equipment.

How is it treated?

VRE is treated with antibiotics that lab tests show will work against the bacteria.

If the medical equipment you have been using is infected, it will be removed.

VRE infections can get very serious very quickly when the usual antibiotics do not stop the infection. Symptoms can get much worse while you wait for test results to learn what medicine is likely to work.

Some strains of enterococcus may have become resistant to all available antibiotics. These infections are very hard to cure and can be life threatening. This is why prevention of VRE is so important.

How can I take care of myself?

How can I help prevent the spread of VRE?

While you are in the hospital, you and your family need to wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. This is especially important before and after touching part of your body or anything that has been in contact with you. The VRE can live on surfaces for hours to days. They can easily be transferred from you to a surface such as the hospital bedrail and then to another person.

It is very appropriate for you to remind all healthcare staff to wash their hands before and after caring for you. This includes, for example, doctors, nurses, lab techs, aides, and respiratory therapists.

When you go home from the hospital, some things you and your family and friends can do to prevent the spread of VRE are:

healthinformatics info

Reference Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) in Healthcare Settings. US Dept of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 11/2010. Accessed 09/30/2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/vre/vre.html.

"Multidrug-Resistant Organisms in Non-Hospital Healthcare Settings- FAQ | CDC Infection Control in Healthcare." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 12 Mar. 2010. Web. 8 Aug. 2010. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ar_multidrugFAQ.html#>.

“Diseases and Organisms in Healthcare Settings.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 11/24/10. Accessed 8/2011 from http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/organisms/organisms.html#v1.


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Last Modified: 2013-10-18

Last Reviewed: 2013-10-10

Website Updated: March 2014

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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


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