Antimicrobial-Resistant Enterococci in Animals and Meat: A Human Health Hazard?

A.M. Hammerum, C.H. Lester, Ole Eske Heuer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Enterococcus faecium and Enterococcus faecalis belong to the gastrointestinal flora of humans and animals. Although normally regarded harmless commensals, enterococci may cause a range of different infections in humans, including urinary tract infections, sepsis, and endocarditis. The use of avoparcin, gentamicin, and virginiamycin for growth promotion and therapy in food animals has lead to the emergence of vancomycin-and gentamicin-resistant enterococci and quinupristin/dalfopristin-resistant E. faecium in animals and meat. This implies a potential risk for transfer of resistance genes or resistant bacteria from food animals to humans. The genes encoding resistance to vancomycin, gentamicin, and quinupristin/dalfopristin have been found in E. faecium of human and animal origin; meanwhile, certain clones of E. faecium are found more frequently in samples from human patients, while other clones predominate in certain animal species. This may suggest that antimicrobial-resistant E. faecium from animals could be regarded less hazardous to humans; however, due to their excellent ability to acquire and transfer resistance genes, E. faecium of animal origin may act as donors of antimicrobial resistance genes for other more virulent enterococci. For E. faecalis, the situation appears different, as similar clones of, for example, vancomycin-and gentamicin-resistant E. faecalis have been obtained from animals and from human patients. Continuous surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in enterococci from humans and animals is essential to follow trends and detect emerging resistance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFoodborne Pathogens and Disease
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1137-1146
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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