Enterococci are bacteria that commonly live in:

  • 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. It is common in hospitals and long-term care facilities. It is very dangerous to those who are critically ill.

The Intestines

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Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) infection is common in hospitals and long-term care facilities. It is particularly dangerous to those who are critically ill. If you think you have this condition, tell your doctor right away.


A number of species cause VRE infection, but the most common are:

  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Enterococcus faecalis

Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of developing VRE:

  • Having enterococci growing (colonizing) in your body (most commonly in the intestines)
  • Being in contact with an infected person or in contact with contaminated surfaces (eg, tables, door knobs)
  • Being previously treated with vancomycin or another antibiotic for a long time
  • Being hospitalized (eg, intensive care unit, cancer ward, transplant ward) or being in a long-term care facility
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having certain conditions (eg, neutropenia , mucositis)
  • Being treated with corticosteroids, parenteral feeding, or chemotherapy
  • Having surgery (eg, chest or abdominal surgery)
  • Having a urinary catheter
  • Undergoing dialysis


Symptoms depend on where the infection is found.

For example, if VRE causes a urinary tract infection , you may have:

  • Fever and chills
  • A frequent need to urinate
  • Pain in the abdomen

VRE can cause the following:

  • Urinary tract infection (most common)
  • Intra-abdominal and pelvic infection (also common)
  • Surgical wound infection
  • Bacteremia—bacteria in the blood
  • Endocarditis —infection of the inner surface of the heart muscles and valves
  • Neonatal sepsis —bacteria in the blood, occurring in infants
  • Meningitis —infection of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord

Each infection has its own symptoms. Your doctor will discuss these symptoms with you.


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A lab test is done to diagnose VRE and to rule out other conditions.


Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include the following:


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 is based on the kind of infection and how severe it is. Common antibiotics used to treat VRE include:


If the infection is in your bladder and you may have a catheter placed to drain urine.


To help reduce your chance of getting VRE, take the following steps:

  • Use proper hand-washing techniques since 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 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.