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VRE (Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci)

Enterococci are germs that can live in your intestine (belly) and come out in normal bowel movements. Sometimes, these germs can infect you and make you sick. The medicine to treat this infection is called vancomycin. If the medicine cannot kill the germs these germs have become resistant to the medicine. We call these vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).

How VRE spreads and causes illness

VRE usually spreads from people’s dirty hands. When someone with dirty hands touches an object or surface, they transfer the germ to that object or surface. When you touch it you get the germs on your hands.

Healthy people usually do not get sick from VRE. People with weak immune systems are at greater risk. If VRE gets in the blood, urinary tract, or other body area, it can cause a serious infection.

Ways to prevent spread

Clean hands are the best way to stop the spread of VRE. Soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizer kill the VRE germ.

To sanitize your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer, follow these steps:

Sanitizer steps

To wash your hands with soap and water, follow these steps:

Handwashing steps

VRE at the hospital

Someone can have VRE germs in their stool without being sick from the VRE. That person can still spread VRE to other people. For this reason, hospitals keep a child who is “colonized” with VRE germs separate from other patients.

Care team members follow “contact precautions” such as wearing gowns and gloves while in your child’s room. Your child might wear a special wrist band.

VRE treatments

If your child becomes sick from VRE, medicines other than vancomycin can be used to treat the infection. But VRE is hard to treat and can become life threatening. So you should take steps to protect your child and others from VRE.

For more information

If you have questions about VRE, talk to your child’s doctor or nurse.


  • Enterococci are germs that live in the belly and sometimes cause infection.
  • Germs that resist the medicine are called vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).
  • The best way to protect yourself and your child is for both of you to clean your hands often.

Reviewed: September 2022