The role and application of enterococci in food and health

Int J Food Microbiol. 2006 Jan 15;106(1):1-24. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2005.06.026. Epub 2005 Oct 10.


The genus Enterococcus is the most controversial group of lactic acid bacteria. Studies on the microbiota of many traditional cheeses in the Mediterranean countries have indicated that enterococci play an important role in the ripening of these cheeses, probably through proteolysis, lipolysis, and citrate breakdown, hence contributing to their typical taste and flavour. Enterococci are also present in other fermented foods, such as sausages and olives. However, their role in these products has not been fully elucidated. Furthermore, the production of bacteriocins by enterococci is well documented. Moreover, enterococci are nowadays used as probiotics. At the same time, however, enterococci have been associated with a number of human infections. Several virulence factors have been described and the number of vancomycin-resistant enterococci is increasing. The controversial nature of enterococci has prompted an enormous increase in scientific papers and reviews in recent years, where researchers have been divided into two groups, namely pro and contra enterococci. To the authors' impression, the negative traits have been focused on very extensively. The aim of the present review is to give a balanced overview of both beneficial and virulence features of this divisive group of microorganisms, because it is only acquaintance with both sides that may allow their safe exploitation as starter cultures or co-cultures.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriocins / biosynthesis
  • Cheese / microbiology*
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Enterococcus* / drug effects
  • Enterococcus* / metabolism
  • Enterococcus* / pathogenicity
  • Fermentation
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Probiotics*
  • Virulence


  • Bacteriocins