Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE) (cont.)

VRE Risks

Enterococci can survive for months. It primarily resides in the human digestive system and the female genital tract; the enterococci make up a significant part of the normal bacterial population of these sites in healthy people.

However, colonization can progress to infection, particularly for people with certain risk factors. The infection can lead to diseases of the urinary tract, bloodstream, heart valves (endocarditis), and brain (meningitis), as well as to serious infections in open wounds.

Some of the risks for acquiring VRE infection are

  • Persons who have been previously treated with vancomycin and combinations of other antibiotics, such as penicillin and gentamicin

  • Persons who are hospitalized, particularly when they receive antibiotic treatment for long periods of time

  • Persons with weakened immune systems, such as patients in intensive-care units, cancer, or transplant wards

  • Persons who have undergone surgical procedures, such as abdominal or chest surgery

  • Persons with medical devices that stay in for some time, such as urinary catheters or central intravenous catheters

Enterococcal infections are more common in elderly people, particularly those in long-term care facilities and skilled nursing homes because they are more likely to experience infection risk factors, such as exposure to medical instruments.

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