Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci (VRE)
VRE stands for Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci. Enterococci are bacteria that usually live harmlessly in your gut. This is called colonisation (a person is said to be a ‘carrier’). However, these bacteria can sometimes develop resistance to common antibiotics. If these resistant bacteria then move to a normally sterile part of the body, such as the bloodstream, they can cause an infection.
How would I know if I am a carrier of VRE?
VRE can be carried by patients, healthcare staff or visitors. Sometimes we need to screen patients for VRE. We do this by taking a small sample from your rectum (back passage) using a cotton bud, or from a faecal (poo) sample. You will normally be informed of the result within two to three days. If you are a carrier of VRE, but have not developed an infection, you will not need to be treated.
How is a VRE infection treated?
If you develop a VRE infection, the antibiotics that are used to treat VRE may need to be given in hospital directly into your bloodstream and you will require special monitoring.
How did I pick up VRE?
As mentioned above, these bacteria can be found, living harmlessly, in the gut of humans and so it can be difficult to say when or where you picked it up. However, there is an increased chance of picking up these bacteria if you:
- have had a prolonged hospital stay
- have been nursed in an intensive care unit
- have a weakened immune system
- have had a previous prolonged course of antibiotic treatment
- have been in contact with a person carrying VRE
How can the spread of VRE be prevented?
VRE is spread by direct person to person contact and by contact with contaminated surfaces. It is spread more easily in patients with diarrhoea. It is not spread by coughing or sneezing. In a hospital, where there are many vulnerable patients, the spread of resistant bacteria can cause problems.
You will be assessed by healthcare staff as to whether you need to be nursed in a single room or in a bay with others. Healthcare workers must wear aprons and gloves when caring for you. Staff must wash their hands with soap and water following glove removal. If a member of staff does not wash their hands please ask that they do.
The most important measure for you to take is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet. Inform staff immediately if you develop diarrhoea. If you have any medical devices (such as urinary catheter or intravenous drip) or wounds, avoid touching them particularly at the site that they enter your body.
Visitors must wash their hands when entering and leaving your room. If they assist with any of your personal care needs the nursing staff may ask them to wear aprons and gloves.
Can I have visitors?
Yes you can have visitors however if you are symptomatic with diarrhoea we advise you not to leave the ward. On entering and leaving the room your visitors must wash their hands with soap and water. Please refrain from visiting other patients on the ward.
What happens when I go home?
Carrying VRE will not delay your discharge. Good personal hygiene is extremely important. Continue good hand hygiene practice at home. You should wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food or eating, and directly after using the toilet. No special measures are required with household cleaning and laundry practices.
If you are readmitted to hospital, visit a GP surgery or attend an outpatient clinic, please tell the staff that you are colonised with VRE.
If you have personal care at home, please contact your community infection prevention team for further advice
Where can I find more information?
Further information can be found on the Public Health England website.
For more information, please contact: Infection Prevention and Control Team 0151 529 5599
- Last Updated:01 May 2020
- Review Date:01 May 2022
- Author:Infection Prevention and Control Team
VRE stands for Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci.