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Clin Microbiol Rev. Oct 1994; 7(4): 462–478.
PMCID: PMC358337

Virulence of enterococci.

Abstract

Enterococci are commensal organisms well suited to survival in intestinal and vaginal tracts and the oral cavity. However, as for most bacteria described as causing human disease, enterococci also possess properties that can be ascribed roles in pathogenesis. The natural ability of enterococci to readily acquire, accumulate, and share extrachromosomal elements encoding virulence traits or antibiotic resistance genes lends advantages to their survival under unusual environmental stresses and in part explains their increasing importance as nosocomial pathogens. This review discusses the current understanding of enterococcal virulence relating to (i) adherence to host tissues, (ii) invasion and abscess formation, (iii) factors potentially relevant to modulation of host inflammatory responses, and (iv) potentially toxic secreted products. Aggregation substance, surface carbohydrates, or fibronectin-binding moieties may facilitate adherence to host tissues. Enterococcus faecalis appears to have the capacity to translocate across intact intestinal mucosa in models of antibiotic-induced superinfection. Extracellular toxins such as cytolysin can induce tissue damage as shown in an endophthalmitis model, increase mortality in combination with aggregation substance in an endocarditis model, and cause systemic toxicity in a murine peritonitis model. Finally, lipoteichoic acid, superoxide production, or pheromones and corresponding peptide inhibitors each may modulate local inflammatory reactions.

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