Enterococcus faecalis is a bacteria that lives in the gut and is eliminated in feces. Infection is caused by fecal-oral transmission (spread of infection from feces to the mouth) and cannot be transmitted by coughing or sneezing. The bacteria can live in the mouth and vagina as well.
If an infected person does not wash their hands properly after using the restroom, the bacteria can spread to surfaces such as doorknobs, phones, and utensils. Infection can then spread to someone who touches these infected surfaces and does not wash their hands before eating or touching their mouth.
Enterococci commonly cause nosocomial or hospital-acquired infections. Infections are primarily seen in severely ill people who had a prolonged hospital stay and/or have taken multiple antibiotics. Infection can spread in hospitals in various ways:
- Health care workers who do not properly wash their hands can transmit the infection to patients.
- Additionally, infection can spread to patients through contaminated medical devices such as catheters, dialysis ports, and endoscopes.
- Enterococcal infection can spread through wounds including surgical wounds.
People who are particularly vulnerable to enterococcal infections include those who have weak immunity due to:
What are enterococci?
Enterococci are a type of bacteria that cause various types of infections in humans. The name “enterococcus” is derived from the French word “entérocoque” which means spherical bacteria (cocci) of intestinal (enteric) origin.
Enterococci are quite tough organisms because they can survive in harsh conditions and extremes of temperature, acidity, and dryness, and even in the presence of some antiseptics. Some of these bacteria have developed resistance to various antibiotics including vancomycin (vancomycin-resistant enterococci).
Enterococcus faecalis is a commensal bacterium of the intestine, which means that it lives inside the gut causing no harm. In certain conditions, however, it can cause infections such as sepsis, urinary tract infection, and infections of the heart (endocarditis) and brain (meningitis).
How to prevent Enterococcus faecalis infection
Enterococcal infection can be avoided by practicing good hygiene, including proper hand washing:
- Wash hands well with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol), especially after using the restroom, before eating or preparing food, and before and after dressing wounds or handling medical devices.
- Keep bathrooms and other areas of the home clean using surface disinfectants.
- Caregivers should wear gloves when taking care of wounds or catheters or if they come in contact with stools, urine, or other body fluids.
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