Enterococci has become a necrotizing "flesh eating" bacteria
Their robust nature and adaptability are indicated by their association with a wide variety of habitats, e.g. surface
waters, soil, plants, and in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals. They are also associated with foods, most
likely as a result of contamination from plant or animal sources, but they also seem to play some role in numerous
fermented foods. It also causes spoilage of heat-treated, packaged processed meats.
The question in the safety and acceptability of enterococci in the food and probiotic situation is still heavily debated. It
should however be emphasised that some well defined strains with a long history of safe use are known.
Some enterococcal strains have been used successfully as human probiotics. Their success as probiotics has been
attributed to factors such as acid and bile resistance, bile salt hydrolase activity, production of antimicrobials and their
ability to survive and compete in the gastrointestinal tract. On the other hand, some strains of enterococci have also
become recognised as important nosocomial pathogens causing bacteraemia, endocarditis and other infections.
Enterococci are Gram-positive cocci which often occur in pairs (diplococci) and are difficult to distinguish from
Streptococci on physical characteristics alone. Two species are common commensal organisms in the intestines of
humans: E. faecalis and E. faecium. Enterococci are facultative anaerobic organisms, i.e. they prefer the use of
oxygen, but they can survive in the absence of oxygen
In the last two decades, particularly virulent strains of Enterococcus which are resistant to vancomycin
(Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus, or VRE) have emerged in nosocomial infections of hospitalized patients
especially in the US. Other developed countries such as the UK have been spared this epidemic, and in 2005,
Singapore managed to halt an epidemic of VRE
Important clinical infections caused by Enterococcus include urinary tract infections, bacteremia, bacterial endocarditis,
diverticulitis, and meningitis. Sensitive strains of these bacteria can be treated with ampicillin and vancomycin.
From a medical standpoint, the most important feature of this genus is their high level of endemic antibiotic resistance.
Enterococcus: Bacteria normally found in the feces of people and many animals. Two types of enterococci --
Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium --occasionally cause human disease, most commonly urinary tract
infections and wound infections. Other infections, including those of the blood stream (bacteraemia), heart valves
(endocarditis) and the brain (meningitis) can occur in severely ill patients in hospitals. Enterococci also often colonize
open wounds and skin ulcers.
Enterococci are among the most common antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The first vancomycin-resistant enterococcus
(VRE) was found in 1986. Since that time, VRE has become a growing problem. Bacteria resistant to vancomycin are
commonly also resistant to a similar antibiotic called teicoplanin, and vice versa.