VRE Bacterial Infection.jpg
Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci is a specific type of bacteria resistant to vancomycin—a drug popularly used to treat infections caused by, you guessed it, Enterococci.

Vancomycin is an antibiotic that has been around for over 5 decades now. Its strength has led it to be used only in cases of more resilient bacterial diseases or when less aggressive drugs cease to work. While antibiotics are introduced into the body to fight and eradicate harmful bacteria, it has been widely misused and/or overused, leading to the target bacteria developing immunity towards it.

Ecterococcus is bacteria found in either intestines or the female genital tract. This is called Colonization, a biological phenomenon in which Enterococci inhabits the female genital tract or the intestine, without harming your body. But when it does start fighting your body, it is termed as an infection.

While VRE is not your high priority dangerous bacterial infection, it still comes with its own set of complications and if aggressive enough, can be fatal.

How it spreads

VRE can only be contracted through touch. It is thus, most likely transferred from one patient to the next through people taking care of them. Doctors and nurses may come in contact with it from one patient and unknowingly transfer it to another.

It can also be spread by directly touching an infested surface. It does not, however, spread through air, so you do not have to be overly cautious around sneezing or coughing patients. The irony however, is that VRE is usually contracted while hospitalized and while it may not be the top deadly bacteria, you would definitely want to prevent acquiring it, especially since it adds risk to your existing health condition.

Treatment

Since the root cause of the disease is the bacteria becoming immune to vancomycin, VRE infections can be easily treated by simply switching the antibiotics used. A suitable alternative can be determined by simple lab tests.

An act as simple as removing the catheter when not in use, helps in cases of urinary infections. While being treated for, it is key that caregivers are careful around the patient, to avoid further prolonging the infection or spreading it further.

Prevention

It goes without saying that medical practice these days are so advanced that the cure to most problems are not out of reach. However, as the age old saying goes, Prevention is always better than Cure. What can one do to prevent contracting the infection, if you have a VRE patient at home?
  • Hygiene is the first and most important rule to remember. This applies both to the patient and the caregiver. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching any possible contaminated surface or the patient itself.
  • Always wear gloves while interacting with the patient or cleaning the surroundings. Remember, they may be invisible, but they can be present in abundance in areas of the house that the patient may occupy.
  • Open wounds such as cuts and scrapes must be attended to immediately, to prevent the spread of the infection into the bloodstream.
  • The patient must have their own personal care items, such as razors, hair brushes and toothbrushes, etc. It is also important that they are cleaned carefully and regularly.
  • It is important that you do not miss out on letting your healthcare provider know when someone has contracted the infection. Healthcare facilities take special precautions to ensure the prevention of VRE infections.

Are you at risk?

The great irony of VRE is that it is most commonly contracted at hospitals! You are probably wondering if you are at risk of contracting VRE and are right to do so.

Give the list below a quick glance, and if you or a loved one fall in any one category, you may want to be extra cautious.
  • If you have been using vancomycin for a prolonged duration of time, it is more likely for the bacteria affecting your body to develop resistance to the strong antibiotic
  • If you have recently undergone surgical procedures, especially involving the chest or abdomen
  • If you have a compromised immune system such as patients in the intensive care, transplant or caner unit
  • If your treatment involves the use of intravenous equipment (such as catheters)
  • If you are a frail or elderly patient
Now that you are made aware of the risks of contracting diseases such as VRE at the hospital, what to look out for and what to do in case you acquire it, or want to avoid it, you can be more prepared for your next hospital visit.