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Diseases & Topics

Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (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 [van-ko-mi-sin] is an antibiotic that is used to treat some enterococci infections. When enterococci become resistant to this drug, they are called vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Most VRE infections occur in hospitals. People who are at particular risk of this healthcare-acquired infection include those who have been treated with antibiotics for a long time, people with weakened immune systems including transplant patients, those who have undergone surgical procedures such as abdominal or chest surgery, and people with medical devices that stay in for some time, such as urinary catheters or central intravenous (IV) catheters.

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 by touching surfaces that are contaminated with VRE. VRE is not spread through the air by coughing or sneezing.

Most VRE infections can be successfully treated with antibiotics other than vancomycin. Laboratory testing of the VRE can determine which antibiotics will work.

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