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August 2010 | 1 Comments | Print

VRE: Treatment and prevention

VRE stands for vancomycinresistant enterococcus. Vancomycin is an antibiotic used to treat certain infections, including those caused by most strains of enterococcus. Enterococcus is an organism found normally in the intestinal tract and, in females, in the vaginal tract. When vancomycin is unable to kill this organism it is called VRE. People who have been ill, have taken many antibiotics or have weakened immune systems due to illness or age are at higher risk for VRE.

VRE is found most often in the stool, but it can be found in the blood, urine, and wounds, or wherever it can be carried by blood. Many organisms live on and in the body without causing disease/infection. This is colonization. These same organisms, under the right conditions, can cause disease. This is infection.

Some VRE can be treated with antibiotics if that patient is infected. Often, if the patient is colonized, he or she is not treated with drugs. Patients sometimes get rid of VRE on their own as their bodies get healthier and they are taken off antibiotics. With most patients this takes a few months.

Preventing the spread of VRE

VRE can be spread to other people by contact between persons. To prevent this from happening:

  1. Contact isolation is used in hospitals when VRE colonization or infection is identified. An Isolation sign will be placed on your door to alert staff and visitors of the special precautions. Healthcare workers and visitors should wear gloves and gowns when they are caring for you; and should also wash hands before and after having contact with you.
  2. VRE is a very hardy organism. It can survive on hard surfaces for five to seven days and on hands for hours. It is easy to kill with good hand washing and the proper use of disinfectants. It does not travel through the air; so facial masks are not needed.
  3. Your room surfaces and equipment will be kept clean with disinfectants.

Healthy visitors and family members should wear gowns and gloves when they visit you in the hospital. All visitors and family members should wash hands thoroughly upon entering and before leaving room and avoid visiting other patient areas during the same visit. Clothing can be taken home and laundered in the usual way.

It is difficult to determine how long a VRE infection will last. Some people can carry VRE in their intestinal tract indefinitely. When you enter a healthcare facility or clinic, let the staff know that you have had VRE. A swab may be obtained from your stool or rectal area to determine if you still have VRE.

Your nurse will review good hygiene practices with you before you go home. You need to do those until your doctor or nurse tells you that you no longer have VRE.

Home Care

  • Wash your hand for at least 10 to 15 seconds after close contact with a VRE patient or with any items the patient has touched, and before making and food and before eating.
  • Wear rubber gloves if you must handle stool or urine. Wash your hands after taking off the gloves.
  • Do not share dishes and utensils.
  • Wash your hands before eating.
  • If you have no dishwasher, wash the dishes with dish soap and hot water; rinse with hot water and allow to air dry.

Cleaning your house

You can use a solution of bleach and water to clean contaminated surfaces. Mix one part bleach to 10 parts water. You should make up a new batch each day. If you’d rather, you can use any commercial disinfectant cleaner. VRE is easy to kill on surfaces as long as it is in contact with disinfectant cleaner for enough time. If you wet a surface well with cleaner and let it air dry that should be enough contact time to kill the germ. 


If possible, the patient should have his or her own bathroom. If not, clean the toilet and sink at least daily. Be especially careful to clean after bowel movements.


Wash the patient’s clothing separately if they are soiled with body fluids; use detergent with bleach. Clothes not soiled with body fluids can be washed with the family’s clothing.

Waste management

Put all disposable wastes like dressings and bandages into plastic bags. Tie the bags securely.  They can be thrown out with the regular garbage.

Doctor’s Appointments

When you go to the doctor’s offices or to hospital appointments, you should tell the doctors and nurses that you have VRE so they can take steps to avoid spreading it to others. 

To find a physician or call877-904-4YOU.

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