Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What causes a vancomycin-resistant enterococcal (VRE) infection?

VRE can exist in the body without causing infection, in which case a patient is said to be colonized with VRE. Colonization usually occurs in the bowel. If the number of VRE bacteria increases, they can invade the bloodstream or spread locally to cause an abdominal abscess or urinary tract infection. Once in the bloodstream, VRE can cause meningitis, pneumonia, or infection of a heart valve (endocarditis). VRE may also be introduced directly into an open sore or wound, causing a wound infection. The bacteria produce several substances, including proteases that help them break down the normal barriers between the gut tissue and the bloodstream. The vancomycin resistance in the bacteria are caused by a plasmid, a fragment of genetic material that allows the bacteria to be resistant to vancomycin.

Are VRE contagious?

VRE are contagious from person to person. However, if a patient takes antibiotics, VRE organisms may develop in the individual (usually in the gastrointestinal tract or on other mucous membranes) and then invade the bloodstream or other areas. These individuals can then be contagious to other people.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2016

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