Objectives: The study was undertaken to investigate vancomycin-resistant (vanA) Enterococcus faecalis isolates carrying aggregation substance (AS) gene(s) for their ability to co-transfer vanA and AS genes. Methods: Six vanA clumping-positive E. faecalis isolates (five human and one food sample) carrying one or more AS genes (prgB, asa1, asa373) were analysed for co-transfer of vanA and AS genes to E. faecalis JH2-2 and Enterococcus faecium 64/3. Results: E. faecalis isolates harboured one or multiple plasmids carrying vanA, one or more AS gene(s) or both. vanA was transferred to JH2-2 (frequencies of 10-3-10-6) from all donors and to 64/3 (10-6-10-8) only from donors from humans. AS genes were detected in 51/60 (85%) of JH2-2 and in 20/50 (40%) of 64/3 vanA transconjugants (prgB, asa1, asa373 or prgB asa373), of which a total of 53.6% were clumping-positive. The plasmid content of JH2-2 transconjugants from the same donor was either identical to that of the donor or it was completely different, suggesting different mechanisms for co-transfer (location on the same pheromone plasmid, mobilization of vanA plasmids by the pheromone-inducible conjugation system, rearrangement of plasmid content during matings). After induction with pheromones, a marked increase in adhesion to Caco-2 cells was observed in four isolates and in some JH2-2 transconjugants, all clumping-positive. Conclusions: Findings suggest that co-transfer of vanA and AS genes may be a common feature of E. faecalis isolates. Since AS is recognized as a virulence factor, this feature might contribute to the emergence of strains with enhanced ability to cause infection and disease in humans.
- E. faecalis
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