Characterization of an Enterococcus faecium small-colony variant isolated from blood culture

Int J Med Microbiol. 2012 Jan;302(1):40-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmm.2011.07.001. Epub 2011 Oct 2.


Small-colony variants (SCVs) of bacteria are slow-growing subpopulations which can cause latent or recurrent infections due to better intracellular survival compared to their wild-type counterparts. Atypical colony morphology and altered biochemical profile may lead to failure in identification of SCV strains. We here report for the first time the isolation of an Enterococcus faecium SCV phenotype. The case of a 65-year-old woman with acute myeloid leukaemia who developed symptoms of sepsis during induction chemotherapy is presented. E. faecium with normal and SCV phenotype was isolated from blood cultures. At the same time urine culture was positive with E. faecium suggesting that bacteraemia originated from the urinary tract. The SCV phenotype was characterized by atypical growth behaviour. Electron microscopic analyses revealed perturbation of the separation of daughter cells and the accumulation of cell wall material. Accordingly, the SCV variant showed a dysfunction or lack of spontaneous autolysis whereas the normal phenotype did not. In contrast to conventional identification systems based on biochemical characteristics, the E. faecium SCV was precisely identified by MALDI-TOF MS analysis implemented in our laboratory. Hence, the increasing use of MALDI-TOF MS analysis for the identification of bacteria might be an appropriate tool for the detection of SCV variants, the diagnosis of which is of importance for the clinical outcome and the antibiotic treatment.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteremia / complications
  • Bacteremia / microbiology*
  • Bacteriolysis
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Enterococcus faecium / drug effects
  • Enterococcus faecium / genetics
  • Enterococcus faecium / growth & development*
  • Enterococcus faecium / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / complications
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Induction Chemotherapy
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / complications*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents