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VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)


Enterococci are germs that can live in your intestine (in your belly) and can be in normal bowel movements. Sometimes, these germs can make you sick. When they make someone sick, the person is often given medicine called vancomycin. In some cases, the germs cannot be killed by this medicine. These germs that resist the medicine are called vancomycin–resistant enterococci (VRE).

How can VRE make my child sick?

VRE is usually spread from people’s contaminated hands. It can also be spread by touching other people with VRE or by touching objects or surfaces that have VRE germs on them.

Healthy people do not usually get sick from VRE germs, but St. Jude patients are at greater risk. If VRE gets in parts of the body that normally have no germs, such as the blood or urinary tract, it can cause very serious infection.

How are patients protected from VRE?

A patient can have VRE germs in the stool without being sick from them. In this case, we say that the patient is “colonized” with the germs. That patient can still spread the VRE germs to other patients. For this reason, a patient with VRE germs will be kept in a room by himself, and “Contact Precautions” will be followed.

Hospital staff members wear gowns and gloves when they are in the room with the patient. Your child will wear a purple wrist band. Alcohol hand sanitizer is the preferred method for cleaning your hands. To learn more about patient isolation, see “Do you know… ACU isolation to prevent infection,” “Do You Know… Contact Precautions,” and “Do You Know… Inpatient isolation to help prevent infection.”

How can VRE be treated?

If your child does become sick from VRE, other medicine besides vancomycin can usually make him better. But it can be hard to treat, and it can become life threatening. Because of this, you should take steps to protect your child and other St. Jude patients from VRE.

How can I keep my child from getting VRE?

The best way to protect yourself and your child is for both of you to clean your hands often.

Using an alcohol-based gel is the preferred way to clean your hands to prevent spread of VRE. Place a palm-size amount of alcohol gel in your hand, and rub your hands together until dry. If you wash your hands with soap and water, press firmly and rub your hands together for 15–20 seconds, rinse well and dry thoroughly.

To learn more about when and how to wash your hands, see “Do you know… Clean hands.

Also, if you use the red wagons at St. Jude, please remember to use only wagons that have been cleaned by the staff. A clean wagon will have a white piece of tape across the top with the words “READY TO ROLL” printed in green.


If you have further questions about VRE, talk to your child’s doctor or nurse.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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