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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)

Ngā huakita whawhai i te vancomycin

This page has links to information in te reo Māori.


Enterococci are generally harmless bacteria (germs) that live in the gut of most people. Vancomycin is an antibiotic that is used to treat very serious infections.

VRE is a type of enterococci bacteria that has become resistant to and cannot be treated with vancomycin.

VRE can cause infections like urinary tract infections and wound infections. The resistance to vancomycin means that it cannot be used to treat these infections.

You can become infected by VRE if you touch other people who have the infection or surfaces that are contaminated then touch your mouth area without having washed your hands. VRE isn't spread through the air by coughing or sneezing.

VRE isn't usually a risk to healthy people.

Diagnosing VRE

If your doctor thinks you may carry or be infected with VRE, they will do some simple tests. This might involve taking a rectal swab or a faecal or urine sample. The results of these tests will help your doctor work out the best form of treatment for you.

Treating VRE

VRE doesn't always need to be treated. If you have the bacteria in your body but no symptoms of an infection, you do not need treatment.

Most VRE infections can be treated with an antibiotic that isn't vancomycin. Blood tests and swab tests can determine which antibiotic will best treat your infection.

Avoiding the spread of VRE

In hospital, you can potentially spread the bacteria to other patients who are at risk of infection because their body's defence mechanisms are weakened by illness, surgery, medications or medical procedures.

To reduce the risk of spreading the infection, it's important to have good hand hygiene. This includes washing your hands with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before eating or drinking. Alcohol-based hand rubs are an excellent alternative to hand washing. They're available in all hospital wards and departments.

If you're in hospital, you'll be placed in isolation to reduce the risk of spreading VRE to other patients. This means you'll be in your own room and have your own toilet.

Hospital staff caring for you will wear gloves and gowns or aprons to prevent them carrying the bacteria to other patients.

If you're in isolation, it's important that you do not visit patients in other parts of the ward or in other wards. You'll also be asked not to go into communal areas on the ward.

Encourage everyone including healthcare workers to wash their hands after visiting you.

Healthy visitors including pregnant women and young children aren't at risk from VRE. But your visitors must wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand rub when they leave your room.

If your visitors are going to visit other people in the hospital, they should do that before coming to see you.

Your family can take your laundry home and wash it as usual.

VRE will not stop you going home from hospital. You'll be discharged as soon as your general condition allows.

The presence of VRE doesn't pose a risk to the health of your family and friends when you're at home or at work.

At home, maintain good personal hygiene and household cleaning. Good hand washing is very important. You can wash towels, clothes, bed sheets and other items as usual. You can also wash utensils and dishes as usual. You do not need to limit activities or visitors to your home.

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Written by Infection Prevention and Control Service, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.


Page reference: 57598

Review key: HIMDR-85207