Surveillance of bacterial contamination in small animal veterinary hospitals with special focus on antimicrobial resistance and virulence traits of enterococci

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2012 Feb 15;240(4):437-45. doi: 10.2460/javma.240.4.437.


Objective: To determine the prevalence of bacterial contamination on 4 surfaces of 4 types of standard equipment in small animal veterinary hospitals.

Design: Surveillance study.

Sample: 10 small animal veterinary hospitals.

Procedures: Each hospital was visited 3 times at 4-month intervals; at each visit, a cage door, stethoscope, rectal thermometer, and mouth gag were swabbed. Swab samples were each plated onto media for culture of enterococci and organisms in the family Enterobacteriaceae. Enterococci were identified via a species-specific PCR assay and sodA gene sequencing; species of Enterobacteriaceae were identified with a biochemical test kit. Antimicrobial susceptibility was assessed via the disk diffusion method. Enterococci were screened for virulence traits and genotyped to assess clonality.

Results: Among the 10 hospitals, enterococci were isolated from cage doors in 7, from stethoscopes in 7, from thermometers in 6, and from mouth gags in 1; contamination with species of Enterobacteriaceae was rare. Enterococci were mainly represented by Enterococcus faecium (35.4%), Enterococcus faecalis (33.2%), and Enterococcus hirae (28.3%). Antimicrobial resistance was common in E. faecium, whereas virulence traits were present in 99% of E. faecalis isolates but not in E. faecium isolates. Clonal multidrug-resistant E. faecium was isolated from several surfaces at 1 hospital over multiple visits, whereas sporadic nonclonal contamination was detected in other hospitals.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Contamination of surfaces in small animal veterinary hospitals with multidrug-resistant enterococci is a potential concern for pets and humans contacting these surfaces. Implementing precautions to minimize enterococcal contamination on these surfaces is recommended.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Enterococcus / drug effects
  • Enterococcus / isolation & purification
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Equipment Contamination*
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / transmission*
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / veterinary*
  • Hospitals, Animal / standards*
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / veterinary
  • Risk Factors
  • Sentinel Surveillance / veterinary
  • Virulence
  • Zoonoses


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents