Enteroccocci are bacteria that are normally present in the human intestines and in the female genital tract and are often found in the environment.
These bacteria can sometimes cause infections. Vancomycin is an antibiotic that is used to treat some drug-resistant infections caused by enterococci.
In some instances, enterococci have become resistant to this drug and thus are called vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Most VRE infections occur in hospitals.
VRE can live in the human intestines and female genital tract without causing disease (often called colonization). However, sometimes it can cause infections of the urinary tract, the bloodstream, or of wounds associated with catheters or surgical procedures.
The following persons are at increased risk becoming infected with VRE:
People who have been previously treated with the antibiotic vancomycin or other antibiotics for long periods of time.
People who are hospitalized, particularly when they receive antibiotic treatment for long periods of time.
People with weakened immune systems such as patients in intensive care units, or in cancer or transplant wards.
People who have undergone surgical procedures such as abdominal or chest surgery.
People with medical devices that stay in for some time such as urinary catheters or central intravenous (IV) catheters.
People who are colonized with VRE.