Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci Infection

(VRE Infection; Multiply-Resistant Enterococci)


Enterococci are bacteria that commonly live in the:

  • Intestines
  • Mouth
  • 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.

The Intestines

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Causes    TOP

VRE infection is caused by specific bacteria. It can be living in your body or transmitted from contaminated people or objects.

Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase the chances of a VRE infection:

  • 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, IV feeding, or chemotherapy
  • Previous surgery, especially a transplant
  • Long-term use of central lines or urinary catheters
  • Dialysis
  • Any severe illness such as cancer or diabetes
  • Advanced age

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms depend on where the infection is found. Each infection has its own symptoms.

VRE infection can cause the following complications:

  • 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

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Samples will be taken of your blood and any othe location where infection id suspected. A lab test is done to find which bacteria is causing the infection and see what antibiotics can kill the bacteria.

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:


VRE infection 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 antibiotic sensitivity of the infection and how severe it is.

Catheter Removal

If the infection is in your bladder and you have a urinary catheter in place, you may have the catheter removed as soon as it is possible. This decreases the risk of further infection.

Any other indwelling lines may also be removed and replaced as needed.

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce the chances of a VRE infection:

  • Use proper hand washing techniques. This is the best way to prevent VRE infections. Hand washing is especially important:
    • After using the bathroom
    • Before preparing food
    • After being in contact with someone who has a VRE infection
  • 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 a VRE infection. 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 a VRE infection.
  • If you have a VRE infection, 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 a VRE infection.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institutes of Health


Canadian Association of Gastroenterology


Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) infection. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated July 31, 2017. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: Updated March 8, 2012. Accessed April 4, 2018.
VRE in healthcare settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated May 10, 2011. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Last reviewed April 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 6/19/2014

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