Cotransfer of antibiotic resistance genes and a hylEfm-containing virulence plasmid in Enterococcus faecium

Publication Date



Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy


The hyl(Efm) gene (encoding a putative hyaluronidase) has been found almost exclusively in Enterococcus faecium clinical isolates, and recently, it was shown to be on a plasmid which increased the ability of E. faecium strains to colonize the gastrointestinal tract. In this work, the results of mating experiments between hyl(Efm)-containing strains of E. faecium belonging to clonal cluster 17 and isolated in the United States and Colombia indicated that the hyl(Efm) gene of these strains is also carried on large plasmids (>145 kb) which we showed transfer readily from clinical strains to E. faecium hosts. Cotransfer of resistance to vancomycin and high-level resistance (HLR) to aminoglycosides (gentamicin and streptomycin) and erythromycin was also observed. The vanA gene cluster and gentamicin resistance determinants were genetically linked to hyl(Efm), whereas erm(B) and ant(6)-I, conferring macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin B resistance and HLR to streptomycin, respectively, were not. A hyl(Efm)-positive transconjugant resulting from a mating between a well-characterized endocarditis strain [TX0016 (DO)] and a derivative of a fecal strain of E. faecium from a healthy human volunteer (TX1330RF) exhibited increased virulence in a mouse peritonitis model. These results indicate that E. faecium strains use a strategy which involves the recruitment into the same genetic unit of antibiotic resistance genes and determinants that increase the ability to produce disease. Our findings indicate that the acquisition of the hyl(Efm) plasmids may explain, at least in part, the recent successful emergence of some E. faecium strains as nosocomial pathogens.


Animals, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Bacterial Proteins, Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial, Enterococcus faecium, Female, Humans, Mice, Microbial Sensitivity Tests, Peritonitis, Plasmids, Vancomycin Resistance, Virulence