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Adv Appl Microbiol. 2014;87:147-86. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-800261-2.00004-9.

Environmental and animal-associated enterococci.

Author information

  • 1BioTechnology Institute, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.
  • 2Department of Microbiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
  • 3BioTechnology Institute, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA; Department of Soil, Water and Climate, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Electronic address: sadowsky@umn.edu.


Enterococci are generally commensal bacteria inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals. They have, however, been implicated as the etiological agent of a variety of illnesses and nosocomial infections. In addition to pathogenic potential, there is growing concern regarding the incidence of antibiotic resistance and genetic exchange among Enterococcus spp. within and among a variety of animal hosts. While primarily considered an enteric group, extra-enteric habitats in which enterococci persist and potentially grow have been studied for decades. Although many biotic (e.g., predation) and abiotic (e.g., sunlight, nutrients, and salinity) stressors have been thought to limit the success of enterococci in these secondary habitats, a growing body of evidence suggests that certain strains may become naturalized to environmental habitats. Enterococci have also been used for decades as indicators of fecal contamination in recreational waters where increased concentrations of this group have been linked to the incidence of illness in humans following recreational use of these waters. Persistence of enterococci in secondary habitats, however, suggests that their presence in ambient waters may prove to be a poor indicator of actual risks to public health. In this chapter, we provide a review of the existing body of literature concerning animal host associations, genetic exchange is reviewed, and emphasis is placed on the growing body of evidence for the persistence and growth of enterococci in secondary habitats.

© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Antibiotic resistance; Commensal; Enteric bacteria; Fecal indicator bacteria; Gene transfer; Microbial ecology

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