VRE (antibiotic resistant infections)

Enterococci are bacteria (bugs) that live in the gut.

When enterococci become resistant to the antibiotic Vancomycin, we call the bacteria Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci (VRE).

VRE are a type of superbug. These are bugs that are resistant to antibiotics. This means that some antibiotics that were used to treat them no longer work very well.

How you get VRE

VRE is a common bug for people who spend a lot of time in hospital. This is because lots of people carry superbugs in hospital. This makes it easier for them to spread.

There's often no way of knowing where or when you picked it up.

Most of the time VRE are harmless and don't cause infection. If they stay in your gut, they won't make you sick.


VRE can cause a serious infection if they get into your blood, kidneys, bladder or body tissues.

Preventing the spread of VRE

The best way to stop picking up and spreading VRE is to:

  • clean your hands often
  • remember to clean your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet and before eating
  • use your own soap, flannel, sponge and razor

If you are in hospital:

  • limit contact with other patients and keep away from their bed space
  • avoid sharing food, newspapers or other personal items with other patients
  • tell staff if facilities in a hospital or clinic are not clean


If you know you carry VRE, tell the doctor when you make an appointment and when you get to the surgery or hospital.

If you carry VRE, this should not get in the way of your normal home life. VRE doesn't spread as quickly outside of hospital. It's also less likely to harm people well enough to be at home.

If you're in hospital, you might need to stay in your own room or a ward with people who carry VRE.

You don't need to limit contact with people or tell friends or family that you have VRE.

Diagnosing VRE

You might need to give samples if you're in hospital or going into hospital.

A doctor or nurse will take a sample from your poo (faeces) or a swab sample from your rectum. This can feel uncomfortable but it is not painful.

The sample is then sent to a lab for testing. You should get the result back within a few days.

Symptoms of VRE infection

Symptoms are a lot like those of other serious infections.

Symptoms of serious VRE infection include:

  • a high temperature
  • aches and pain
  • chills
  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • confusion

Causes of VRE infection

VRE are more likely to cause infection in people who are already very sick.

Healthy people, including children and pregnant women, are at very low risk of VRE infection.

Things that put you at higher risk of VRE infection

  • Major surgery.
  • Having a medical device inserted into your body, such as a catheters or IV line.
  • Cancer treatment.

Treatment of VRE infection

If you have a VRE infection, you can be treated with a specific type of antibiotics. Common antibiotics will not work.

Page last reviewed: 22 November 2019
Next review due: 22 November 2022