Emergence of CC17 Enterococcus faecium: from commensal to hospital-adapted pathogen


  • Editor: Willem van Leeuwen

Correspondence: Janetta Top, Department of Medical Microbiology, University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU), G04.614, PO box 85500, 3508 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 88 7557627; fax: +31 30 2541770; e-mail: j.top@umcutrecht.nl


For many years, Enterococcus faecium was considered to be a commensal of the digestive tract, which only sporadically caused opportunistic infections in severely ill patients. Over the last two decades, vancomycin-resistant E. faecium (VREF) has emerged worldwide as an important cause of nosocomial infections, especially in immunocompromised patients. The global Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) epidemic was preceded by the emergence of ampicillin-resistant E. faecium (AREfm) in the United States in the early 1980s, followed by the rapid emergence of VRE in the 1990s. A similar increase of VRE may occur in countries with still low levels of VRE in hospitals (such as The Netherlands), but increasing incidence of AREfm infections. Molecular epidemiological studies of both human- and animal-derived E. faecium isolates using multilocus sequence typing revealed the existence of host-specific genogroups, including a specific genetic lineage designated CC17, associated with hospital-related isolates. These strains were characterized by ampicillin and quinolone resistance. In addition, the majority of these CC17 isolates contain over hundred hospital-clade-specific genes, including mobile elements, phage genes and plasmid sequences, hypothetical and membrane proteins and antibiotic and regulatory genes and a putative pathogenicity island including the esp gene.