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      Influx of enterococci and associated antibiotic resistance and virulence genes from ready-to-eat food to the human digestive tract.

      Applied and Environmental Microbiology
      Anti-Bacterial Agents, pharmacology, Drug Resistance, Microbial, genetics, Enterococcus, drug effects, isolation & purification, Food Microbiology, Gastrointestinal Tract, microbiology, Gene Transfer, Horizontal, Genes, Bacterial, Humans, Virulence, Virulence Factors, metabolism

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          The influx of enterococcal antibiotic resistance (AR) and virulence genes from ready-to-eat food (RTEF) to the human digestive tract was assessed. Three RTEFs (chicken salad, chicken burger, and carrot cake) were sampled from five fast-food restaurants five times in summer (SU) and winter (WI). The prevalence of enterococci was significantly higher in SU (92.0% of salad samples and 64.0% of burger samples) than in WI (64.0% of salad samples and 24.0% of burger samples). The overall concentrations of enterococci during the two seasons were similar ( approximately 10(3) CFU/g); the most prevalent were Enterococcus casseliflavus (41.5% of isolates) and Enterococcus hirae (41.5%) in WI and Enterococcus faecium (36.8%), E. casseliflavus (27.6%), and Enterococcus faecalis (22.4%) in SU. Resistance in WI was detected primarily to tetracycline (50.8%), ciprofloxacin (13.8%), and erythromycin (4.6%). SU isolates were resistant mainly to tetracycline (22.8%), erythromycin (22.1%), and kanamycin (13.0%). The most common tet gene was tet(M) (35.4% of WI isolates and 11.9% of SU isolates). The prevalence of virulence genes (gelE, asa1, cylA, and esp) and marker genes for clinical isolates (EF_0573, EF_0592, EF_0605, EF_1420, EF_2144, and pathogenicity island EF_0050) was low (< or =12.3%). Genotyping of E. faecalis and E. faecium using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis revealed that the food contamination likely originated from various sources and that it was not clonal. Our conservative estimate (single AR gene copy per cell) for the influx of tet genes alone to the human digestive tract is 3.8 x 10(5) per meal (chicken salad). This AR gene influx is frequent because RTEFs are commonly consumed and that may play a role in the acquisition of AR determinants in the human digestive tract.

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