OBJECTIVES: This study was initiated to collect retrospective information on the occurrence of plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance (PMQR) in Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli isolates in Europe and to identify the responsible genes. METHODS: Databases of national reference laboratories containing MIC values for Salmonella and E. coli isolated between 1994 and 2009 in animals, humans, food and the environment from 13 European countries were screened for isolates exhibiting a defined quinolone resistance phenotype, i.e. reduced susceptibility to fluoroquinolones and nalidixic acid. PCR and sequence analysis were performed to identify the responsible PMQR genes. RESULTS: Screening of databases of 13 European countries resulted in a selection of 1215 Salmonella and 333 E. coli isolates. PMQR genes were identified in 59% of the Salmonella isolates and 15% of the E. coli isolates selected. In Salmonella, qnrS1 (n = 125) and variants of qnrB (n = 138) were frequently identified, whereas qnrA1 (n = 3) and aac(6')-1b-cr (n = 3) were rarely found. qnrD was detected in 22 Salmonella isolates obtained from humans and animals. In E. coli, qnrS1 was identified in 19 isolates and qnrB19 was found in one isolate. No qnrC or qepA genes were detected in either Salmonella or E. coli. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows the occurrence and dissemination of PMQR genes in Salmonella and E. coli in Europe with a defined quinolone resistance phenotype. We also report the first detection of qnrD in Salmonella collected in Europe.