Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci

  • Medical Author:
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

  • Medical Author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    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.

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What precautions should people take when tending to someone with a vancomycin-resistant enterococcal (VRE) infection?

Caretakers of infected patients should follow good hand hygiene principles. This means washing hands or using alcohol disinfectants on hands before and after touching the patient or objects in the patient's environment. If there is visible soiling of the hands, soap and water should be used rather than alcohol-based disinfectants. If the patient is incontinent of stool or urine, gloves should be used to clean the bed or the patient. However, gloves are not a substitute for good hand hygiene. Simple household disinfectants are effective against VRE and can be used to clean the environment. A 10% bleach solution may also be used.

Hospitals will take additional precautions. Once a patient is known to harbor VRE, whether colonized or infected, the patient will be placed in "contact precautions," usually in a private room. People entering the room will wear a cloth or paper gown over their clothes and use gloves. Again, hand hygiene is critical to reduce spread of the organism. Masks are not needed because VRE is not spread through the air but by direct contact.

What research is being done on vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE)?

Research on VRE is focused on several areas:

  • Improving infection-control practices to reduce spread of VRE in health-care environments
  • The development of new antibiotics to treat VRE (for example, dalbavancin)
  • The development of urinary catheters and intravenous catheters that are more resistant to infection
  • Basic research aimed at improving our understanding of the bacteria itself and how vancomycin resistance is transferred from species to species
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2015
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