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What is VRE and how do you get it?

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Quick Answer

Vancomycin-resistant enterococci, or VRE, are bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics, in some cases leading to infections, notes WebMD. VRE infections can spread through contact with others, such as between health care workers and patients or through contaminated objects. As of 2015, doctors do not know why some people are more likely than others to develop infections due to VRE, though the cause may be related to overuse of antibiotics.

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Full Answer

Healthy people are not at high risk of developing VRE infections even if they have received exposure or have the bacteria in their bodies, according to WebMD. People with weakened immune systems and those who have undergone treatment with multiple antibiotics are more likely to develop VRE infections. VREs are resistant to many antibiotics, particularly vancomycin. Each time a person takes an antibiotic, some bacteria survive and then mutate, making them much harder to kill in the future. The intestines, urinary tract and open wounds are common sites where VRE infections occur, though they may happen anywhere in the body.

People can help prevent VRE infections through good hygiene, proper use of antibiotics and reminding health care workers to wash their hands prior to touching them, advises WebMD. They should also clean their wounds carefully and keep them covered with bandages. People who have serious VRE infections may need to stay in isolation in hospital rooms to reduce the chances of spreading the bacteria to others.

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