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Syst Appl Microbiol. 2007 Jan;30(1):1-7. Epub 2006 Mar 23.

Characterisation and transfer of antibiotic resistance genes from enterococci isolated from food.

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Federal Research Centre for Nutrition and Food, Institute of Hygiene and Toxicology, Haid-und-Neu-Strasse 9, D-76131 Karlsruhe, Germany.


The genetic determinants responsible for the resistances against the antibiotics tetracycline [tet(M), tet(O), tet(S), tet(K) and tet(L)], erythromycin (ermA,B,C; mefA,E; msrA/B; and ereA,B) and chloramphenicol (cat) of 38 antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus faecium and Enterococcus faecalis strains from food were characterised. In addition, the transferability of resistance genes was also assessed using filter mating assays. The tet(L) determinant was the most commonly detected among tetracycline-resistant enterococci (94% of the strains), followed by the tet(M) gene, which occurred in 63.0% of the strains. Tet(K) occurred in 56.0% of the resistant strains, while genes for tet(O) and tet(S) could not be detected. The integrase gene of the Tn916-1545 family of transposons was present in 81.3% of the tetracycline resistant strains, indicating that resistance genes might be transferable by transposons. All chloramphenicol-resistant strains carried a cat gene. 81.8% of the erythromycin-resistant strains carried the ermB gene. Two (9.5%) of the 21 erythromycin-resistant strains, which did not contain ermA,B,C, ereA,B and mphA genes harboured the msrC gene encoding an erythromycin efflux pump, which was confirmed by sequencing the PCR amplicon. In addition, all E. faecium strains contained the msrC gene, but none of the E. faecalis strains. Transfer of the genetic determinants for antibiotic resistance could only be demonstrated in one filter mating experiment, where both the tet(M) and tet(L) genes were transferred from E. faecalis FAIR-E 315 to the E. faecalis OG1X recipient strain. Our results show the presence of various types of resistance genes as well as transposon integrase genes associated with transferable resistances in enterococci, indicating a potential for gene transfer in the food environment.

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