Mannu, Luisa and Paba, A. and Daga, Elisabetta Simona and Comunian, Roberta and Zanetti, Stefania Anna Lucia and Duprè, Ilaria and Sechi, Leonardo Antonio (2003) Comparison of the incidence of virulence determinants and antibiotic resistance between Enterococcus faecium strains of dairy, animal and clinical origin. International Journal of Food Microbiology, Vol. 88 (2-3), p. 291-304. ISSN 0168-1605. Article.
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Enterococci are part of the dominant microbiota of several dairy products. They are also present in the gut of humans and animals. Their presence in traditional raw milk cheeses is probably due to faecal contamination of milk during milking. Due to their importance as a cause of nosocomial infections, enterococci are acquiring increased significance. Such infections are becoming more and more difficult to treat as resistance to antibiotics increases. The aim of this investigation was to compare the potential virulence of Enterococcus faecium isolated from different ecological habitats and to establish if strains isolated from dairy products should really be considered as potential pathogens. In the present work, the antibiotic resistance pattern of 40 E. faecium strains isolated from dairy products, 26 E. faecium isolated from ewes' faeces and 28 clinical isolates of the same species was studied, and checks were made to see if known virulence determinants were present. Resistance to 12 different antibiotics commonly used in the treatment of human infections was tested using the broth microdilution method as described by the NCCLS. In addition, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were carried out to see if genes for vancomycin resistance were present. The presence of the aggregation substance (AS) gene, the surface protein gene esp, the accessory colonisation factor ace, the Enterococcus faecalis endocarditis antigen efaA and the gelatinase gelE gene, which are involved in the virulence of enterococci, were also tested by PCR. The results of this study clearly indicate that E. faecium strains isolated from both cheese and sheep faeces are less pathogenic than those isolated from clinical samples. A similar pattern of resistance to antibiotics was observed in both dairy and animal strains. It was also found that there was difference in the kind of virulence determinants present in dairy and clinical isolates, while no virulence traits were found in sheep faeces strains. The results of this study suggest that E. faecium from traditional Sardinian raw milk cheeses should not be considered to be the main source of untreatable nosocomial enterococcal infections in humans in the island of Sardinia.
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