VRE (Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus) is an infection caused by the bacteria Enterococcus which has become resistant to treatment with vancomycin, an antibiotic commonly used to treat this type of infection. Enterococcus is a type of bacteria that is normally found in human intestines (gut) and the female genital tract and is also often found in the environment without causing disease. When it becomes resistant to vancomycin, it is then called vancomycin resistant Enterococcus or VRE. VRE can be present in an individual but not cause symptoms, this is often called colonization of the bacteria. Sometimes however, the VRE bacteria can cause a variety of infections in the urinary tract, the bloodstream or in open wounds on the skin. VRE is spread by simple skin to skin contact or by touching surfaces contaminated with the bacteria. Most VRE infections spread this way in hospitals. VRE cannot be spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. People at risk for VRE infections include those who have been previously treated with vancomycin or have had other long term antibiotic use, people with weakened immune systems especially in the hospital setting, surgical patients, or people with urinary catheters or intravenous tubing placed (IV) as these allow an opening for the bacteria to enter the body.
To avoid the spread of VRE, wash hands frequently and hospital workers or care givers should wear gown and gloves when treating an infected person. Individuals with colonized bacteria (no symptoms) do not need to be treated. Most VRE infections can be treated with antibiotics other than vancomycin. Lab tests can determine which antibiotics may work best. If you think you may have VRE or may have been exposed, speak with your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with VRE, talk with your doctor or specialist about the most current treatment options.