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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Emergence of unusual species of enterococci causing infections, South India

Vittal P Prakash1*, Sambasiva R Rao12 and Subash C Parija1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry, India

2 Vice-Chancellor, NTR University of Health Sciences, Vijayawada, India

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2005, 5:14  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-5-14

Published: 17 March 2005



Enterococci tend to be one of the leading causes of nosocomial infections, with E. faecalis and E. faecium accounting up to 90% of the clinical isolates. Nevertheless, the incidence of other species of enterococci from clinical sources shows an alarming increase with the properties of intrinsic resistance to several antibiotics including beta-lactams and glycopeptides. Thus proper identification of enterococci to species level is quintessential for management and prevention of these bacteria in any healthcare facility. Hence this work was undertaken to study the prevalence of unusual species of enterococci causing human infections, in a tertiary care hospital in South India.


The study was conducted in a tertiary care hospital in South India from July 2001 to June 2003. Isolates of enterococci were collected from various clinical specimens and speciated using extensive phenotypic and physiological tests. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing were performed and interpreted as per NCCLS guidelines. Whole cell protein (WCP) fingerprinting of enterococci were done for species validation by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and analyzed computationally.


Our study showed the prevalence of unusual (non-faecalis and non-faecium enterococci) and atypical (biochemical variant) species of enterococci as 19% (46 isolates) and 5% (12 isolates) respectively. The 7 unusual species (46 isolates) isolated and confirmed by phenotypic characterization includes: 15 E. gallinarum (6.2%), 10 E. avium (4.1%), 6 E. raffinosus (2.5%), 6 E. hirae (2.5%), 4 E. mundtii (1.7%), 3 E. casseliflavus-including the two atypical isolates (1.2%) and 2 E. durans (0.8%). The 12 atypical enterococcal species (5%) that showed aberrant sugar reactions in conventional phenotyping were confirmed as E. faecalis, E. faecium and E. casseliflavus respectively by WCP fingerprinting. The antimicrobial susceptibility testing depicted the emergence of high-level aminoglycoside and beta-lactam resistance among different species apart from intrinsic vancomycin resistance by some species, while all the species tested were susceptible for linezolid and teicoplanin.


Our study reveals the emergence of multi-drug resistance among unusual species of enterococci posing a serious therapeutic challenge. Precise identification of enterococci to species level enables us to access the species-specific antimicrobial resistance characteristics, apart from knowing the epidemiological pattern and their clinical significance in human infections.