Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci Infection
(VRE; Multiply-Resistant Enterococci)
Enterococci are bacteria that commonly live in:
- Female genital tract
In some cases, it can cause an infection. When this happens, the antibiotic vancomycin may be given to cure the infection.
However, some types of the bacteria are resistant to vancomycin. When the bacteria are resistant, the infection is not cured. This is called vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) infection. It is more common in hospitals and long-term care facilities. It can be very dangerous to those who are critically ill.
VRE is caused by specific bacteria.
Factors that may increase your chance of VRE include:
- Vancomycin-resistant enterococci growing in your body, usually in the intestines
- Contact with an infected person or being in contact with contaminated surfaces
- Previous treatment with vancomycin or another antibiotic for a long time
- Hospitalization, or being in a long-term care facility
- A weakened immune system from medication or illness
- Certain medical conditions, such as neutropenia or mucositis
- Treatment with corticosteroids, parenteral feeding, or chemotherapy
- Previous surgery, especially a transplant
- Use of a urinary catheter
- Any severe illness
Symptoms depend on where the infection is found. VRE can cause the following:
- Urinary tract infection
- Intra-abdominal and pelvic infection
- Surgical wound infection
- Sepsis —an infection or its toxin spreading through the bloodstream
- Endocarditis —an infection of the inner surface of the heart muscles and valves
- Neonatal sepsis —a blood infection occurring in infants
- Meningitis —an infection of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord
Each infection has its own symptoms.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A lab test is done to find which bacteria is causing the infection and see what antibiotics can kill the bacteria.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
VRE can be treated with other types of antibiotics. Tests can be done to find out which ones will work. The type that is chosen will also be based on the kind of infection and how severe it is.
To help reduce your chance of getting VRE, take the following steps:
hand-washing techniques. This is the best way to prevent VRE. Hand washing is especially important:
- After using the bathroom
- Before preparing food
- After being in contact with someone who has VRE
- Clean and disinfect areas of your home that may be contaminated with VRE. This included the bathroom and kitchen.
- Wear gloves if you are caring for someone with VRE. If you will have contact with bodily fluids, wear a gown over your clothing. Also, clean the person’s room and linens.
- If you are prescribed vancomycin, talk to your doctor. Taking this antibiotic is a risk factor for the bacteria to colonize in your body and for you to get VRE.
- If you have VRE, tell your doctor. Hospitals take special precautions when they know a patient is infected.
In some hospitals, screening tests are done for patients at high-risk for VRE.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institutes of Health
Public Health Agency of Canada
Huycke MM, Sahm DF, et al. Multiple-drug resistant enterococci: the nature of the problem and an agenda for the future. Emerg Infect Diseases. 1998;4(2):239-249.
Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 10, 2014. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/antimicrobialResistance/Examples/vre/Pages/default.aspx. Updated March 8, 2012. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) in healthcare settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/organisms/vre/vre.html. Updated May 10, 2011. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.