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What are some risks of VRE?

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Patients who spend long periods in hospitals, and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk of vancomycin-resistant enterococci, which can cause infections in open wounds, diseases of the urinary tract, bloodstream and heart valves, and may cause meningitis, notes MedicineNet. Infections caused by VRE are resistant to treatment by antibiotics, including vancomycin, which doctors usually prescribe to treat infections that don't respond to other antibiotics.

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Researchers believe that enterococci bacteria can become resistant to vancomycin and result in VRE due to acquisition of a resistant gene from other bacteria in the digestive tract, according to MedicineNet. Some strains of the bacteria have a natural resistance to antibiotics. VRE is normally transmitted in health care settings, from workers who have become contaminated after coming in contact with the feces, urine or blood of an infected person. The complications caused by VRE can lead to death.

Enterococci can survive on environmental surfaces for weeks and can live in the human digestive system and the female genital tract for months, states MedicineNet. While healthy people may carry the bacteria, it can colonize and lead to VRE infections in patients such as those in cancer wards and intensive care units, particularly patients who have taken antibiotics for long periods or who have implanted medical devices, such as catheters.

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