Recent data indicates an increasing rate of vancomycin resistance in clinical enterococcal isolates worldwide. The nosocomial enterococci are likely to harbor virulence elements that increase their ability to colonize hospitalized patients. The aim of this study was to characterize virulence determinants in vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) obtained from various clinical sources.

During the years 2008 to 2010, a total of 48 VRE isolates were obtained from three University teaching hospitals in Northwest, Iran. Initially, phenotypic speciation was done and minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of vancomycin were determined by agar dilution method and E-test. Then, species identification and resistance genotypes along with detection of virulence genes (asa1, esp, gelE, ace and cpd) of the isolates were performed by multiplex PCR.

Thirty eight isolates were identified as vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VREfm) and ten as E. faecalis (VREfs). Irrespective of the species, vanA gene (89.58%) was dominant and three phenotypically vancomycin susceptible E. faecium isolates carried the vanB gene. Among virulence genes investigated, the esp was found in 27(71%) VREfm strains, but did not in any VREfs. Other virulence determinants were highly detected in VREfs strains. Our data indicate a high prevalence of E. faecium harboring vancomycin resistance with vanA genotype and the two VRE species displayed different virulence genes.

Keywords: Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, Vancomycin resistance, Virulence gene.
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