Antimicrobial resistance in recent fecal enterococci from healthy volunteers and food handlers in Spain: genes and phenotypes

Microb Drug Resist. Spring 2003;9(1):47-60. doi: 10.1089/107662903764736346.


Susceptibility patterns to 15 different antibiotics and the presence of resistance genes were evaluated in recent fecal Enterococcus isolates recovered from 42 healthy volunteers (HV) and 43 food-handlers (FH). A total of 142 Enterococcus faecalis, 74 Enterococcus faecium, and 23 Enterococcus spp. with different antibiotic susceptibility patterns were studied. A higher percentage of resistance for moxifloxacin, erythromycin, glycopeptides and high-level resistance (HLR) to gentamicin were observed in the FH group. Ampicillin- or linezolid-resistant isolates were not recovered in any of the groups. The tet(M) gene was found in 96% and in 85% of tetracycline-resistant isolates from HV and FH, respectively. HLR-kanamycin was mediated by aph(3')-IIIa, or aac(6')-aph(2"), or both genes in all isolates from HV group and in 86% from FH group. The aac(6')-aph(2") gene was found in all HLR-gentamicin isolates. Ninety-one percent of HV and 71% of FH erythromycin-resistant isolates harbored the erm(B) gene (erythromycin MIC range of 8-128 microg/ml), whereas erm(A), erm(C), or mef(A) genes were not detected. Coexistence of erm(B), aph(3')-IIIa, and tet(M) genes was observed in 17% of the isolates of both groups. The HLR-gentamicin isolates presented unrelated PFGE patterns while 2 out of 3 vanA E. faecium isolates showed an indistinguishable SmaI-pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern. This study shows that despite 4 years of official banning of antibiotic growth promoters in animals, enterococci isolated from FH are more resistant than those from HV. This suggests the permanence of resistant clones or transferable resistance elements in farms and a possible exchange between food products and humans, or eventually the long-term permanence of certain clones in the FH intestinal tract.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Enterococcus / drug effects*
  • Enterococcus / genetics
  • Enterococcus / isolation & purification
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Food Handling
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spain


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents