Enterococci are Gram-positive, catalase-negative, non-spore-forming, facultative anaerobic bacteria, which usually inhabit the alimentary tract of humans in addition to being isolated from environmental and animal sources. They are able to survive a range of stresses and hostile environments, including those of extreme temperature (5-65 degrees C), pH (4.5-10.0) and high NaCl concentration, enabling them to colonize a wide range of niches. Virulence factors of enterococci include the extracellular protein Esp and aggregation substances (Agg), both of which aid in colonization of the host. The nosocomial pathogenicity of enterococci has emerged in recent years, as well as increasing resistance to glycopeptide antibiotics. Understanding the ecology, epidemiology and virulence of Enterococcus species is important for limiting urinary tract infections, hepatobiliary sepsis, endocarditis, surgical wound infection, bacteraemia and neonatal sepsis, and also stemming the further development of antibiotic resistance.