Human infections caused by glycopeptide-resistant Enterococcus spp: are they a zoonosis?


P. Courvalin Unité des Agents Antibactériens, Institut Pasteur, 25–28, rue du Docteur Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France. Tel.: +33 45 68 83 20. Fax: +33 45 68 83 19. E-mail:


Following the detection of glycopeptide-resistant enterococci (GRE) in 1986 and their subsequent global dissemination during the 1990s, many studies have attempted to identify the reservoirs and lines of resistance transmission as a basis for intervention. The eradication of reservoirs and the prevention of GRE spread is of major importance for two reasons: (i) the emergence of high-level glycopeptide resistance in invasive enterococcal clinical isolates that are already multiresistant, has left clinicians with therapeutic options that are only at the experimental stage; and (ii) the resistance genes may spread to more virulent bacterial species such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Clostridium difficile. VanA-type strains, resistant to high levels of both vancomycin and teicoplanin, are the most commonly encountered enterococci with acquired glycopeptide resistance in humans. A widespread VanA-type GRE reservoir was detected early in farm animals that were exposed to the glycopeptide growth-promoter avoparcin. Numerous studies have provided indirect evidence for the transfer of VanA-type GRE and their resistance determinants from animal reservoirs to humans. The data collected have expanded our understanding of the promiscuous nature of antibiotic resistance, and have provided the groundwork for logical decision-making with the objective of deterring the dissemination of resistant bacteria and of their resistance genes.