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PLoS One. 2014 Aug 25;9(8):e103274. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103274. eCollection 2014.

A multicentre hospital outbreak in Sweden caused by introduction of a vanB2 transposon into a stably maintained pRUM-plasmid in an Enterococcus faecium ST192 clone.

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Research group for Host-Microbe Interactions, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø - The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway.
Unit for antibiotics and infection control, the Public Health Agency of Sweden, Solna, Sweden.
Department of Clinical Microbiology, Karolinska University Hospital, Huddinge, Sweden.
Research group for Host-Microbe Interactions, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø - The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway; Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Detection of Antimicrobial Resistance, Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, University Hospital of North-Norway, Tromsø, Norway.


The clonal dissemination of VanB-type vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VREfm) strains in three Swedish hospitals between 2007 and 2011 prompted further analysis to reveal the possible origin and molecular characteristics of the outbreak strain. A representative subset of VREfm isolates (n = 18) and vancomycin-susceptible E. faecium (VSEfm, n = 2) reflecting the spread in time and location was approached by an array of methods including: selective whole genome sequencing (WGS; n = 3), multi locus sequence typing (MLST), antimicrobial susceptibility testing, virulence gene profiling, identification of mobile genetic elements conferring glycopeptide resistance and their ability to support glycopeptide resistance transfer. In addition, a single VREfm strain with an unrelated PFGE pattern collected prior to the outbreak was examined by WGS. MLST revealed a predominance of ST192, belonging to a hospital adapted high-risk lineage harbouring several known virulence determinants (n≥10). The VREfm outbreak strain was resistant to ampicillin, gentamicin, ciprofloxacin and vancomycin, and susceptible to teicoplanin. Consistently, a vanB2-subtype as part of Tn1549/Tn5382 with a unique genetic signature was identified in the VREfm outbreak strains. Moreover, Southern blot hybridisation analyses of PFGE separated S1 nuclease-restricted total DNAs and filter mating experiments showed that vanB2-Tn1549/Tn5382 was located in a 70-kb sized rep17/pRUM plasmid readily transferable between E. faecium. This plasmid contained an axe-txe toxin-antitoxin module associated with stable maintenance. The two clonally related VSEfm harboured a 40 kb rep17/pRUM plasmid absent of the 30 kb vanB2-Tn1549/Tn5382 gene complex. Otherwise, these two isolates were similar to the VREfm outbreak strain in virulence- and resistance profile. In conclusion, our observations support that the origin of the multicentre outbreak was caused by an introduction of vanB2-Tn1549/Tn5382 into a rep17/pRUM plasmid harboured in a pre-existing high-risk E. faecium ST192 clone. The subsequent dissemination of VREfm to other centres was primarily caused by clonal spread rather than plasmid transfer to pre-existing high-risk clones.

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