Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VRE)
Enteroccocci are bacteria that are normally present in the human intestines and in the female genital tract and are often found in the environment. These bacteria can sometimes cause infections. Vancomycin is an antibiotic that is used to treat some drug-resistant infections caused by enterococci. In some instances, enterococci have become resistant to this drug and thus are called vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Most VRE infections occur in hospitals.
What types of infections does VRE cause?
VRE can live in the human intestines and female genital tract without causing disease (often called colonization). However, sometimes it can cause infections of the urinary tract, the bloodstream, or of wounds associated with catheters or surgical procedures.
Who is at risk for infection?
Those at risk for VRE infection include: people who have been previously treated with the antibiotic vancomycin or other antibiotics for long periods of time; people who are hospitalized, particularly when they receive antibiotic treatment for long periods of time; people with weakened immune systems such as patients in intensive care units, or in cancer or transplant wards; people who have undergone surgical procedures such as abdominal or chest surgery; people with medical devices that stay in for some time such as urinary catheters or central intravenous (IV) catheters; and people who are colonized with VRE.
How is VRE spread?
VRE is often passed from person to person by the contaminated hands of caregivers. VRE can get onto a caregiver's hands after they have contact with other people with VRE or after contact with contaminated surfaces. VRE can also be spread directly to people after they touch surfaces that are contaminated with VRE. VRE is not spread through the air by coughing or sneezing.
How are VRE infections treated?
People with colonized VRE (bacteria are present, but have no symptoms of an infection) do not need treatment. Most VRE infections can be treated with antibiotics other than vancomycin. Laboratory testing of the VRE can determine which antibiotics will work. For people who get VRE infections in their bladder and have urinary catheters, removal of the catheter when it is no longer needed can also help get rid of the infection.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/organisms/vre/vre.html