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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1998 Mar;42(3):502-8.

Diversity of VanA glycopeptide resistance elements in enterococci from humans and nonhuman sources.

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Antibiotic Reference Unit and Laboratory of Hospital Infection, Central Public Health Laboratory, London, United Kingdom.


Elements mediating VanA glycopeptide resistance in 106 diverse enterococci from humans and nonhuman sources were compared with the prototype VanA transposon, Tn1546, in Enterococcus faecium BM4147. The isolates included 64 from individual patients at 15 hospitals in the United Kingdom (isolated between 1987 and 1996) and 42 from nonhuman sources in the United Kingdom (27 from raw meat, 7 from animal feces, and 8 from sewage). VanA elements were assigned to 24 groups (designated groups A to X) with primers that amplified 10 overlapping fragments of Tn1546. Ten groups of elements were found only in human enterococci, eight groups of elements were unique to nonhuman strains, and six groups of elements were common in enterococci from all sources. Elements indistinguishable from Tn1546 (group A) were observed more frequently in enterococci from nonhuman sources (34 versus 9%) but were identified in enterococci that caused outbreaks in hospital patients between 1987 and 1995. The most common group found in human enterococci (group H; 33%) was rarely observed in enterococci from other sources (5%). Group H elements differed from Tn1546 in three regions and included a novel insertion sequence, designated IS1542, between orf2 and vanR. The VanA elements of 14 other groups had a similar insertion at this position and/or distinct insertions at other positions. We conclude that VanA elements in enterococci are heterogeneous, although all show regions of homology with Tn1546. Furthermore, the elements most common among the human and nonhuman enterococci studied were different. This approach may be useful for monitoring the evolution of VanA resistance and may also be applicable in local "snapshot" epidemiological studies. However, as transposition events involving insertion sequences accounted for the differences observed between several groups, the stability of the elements must be assessed before their true epidemiological significance can be determined.

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