Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) Q&As

What is VRE?
Enterococci are bacteria that are normally present in the human intestines and are often found in the environment. These bacteria can sometimes cause infections. Vancomycin is an antibiotic that is often used to treat infections caused by enterococci. In some instances, enterococci have become resistant to this drug and thus are called vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). 

What causes VRE?
Enterococci bacteria in lower intestine and/or possibly other areas (e.g., urine, blood, skin) may cause an infection and resist Vancomycin antibiotic (people may carry the bacteria without having symptoms). Risk factors for VRE acquisition include severity of underlying illness, presence of invasive devices, prior colonization with VRE, antibiotic use and length of hospital stay.

How does VRE spread?
The spread of VRE occurs through contact. The bacteria can live on surfaces for five days to weeks and on hands for several hours. The bacteria are relatively easy to kill with disinfectants (provided the bacteria are in contact with the disinfectant for a long enough period) and good hand hygiene.