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      Occurrence, structure, and mobility of Tn1546-like elements in environmental isolates of vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

      Applied and Environmental Microbiology
      Animals, Anti-Bacterial Agents, pharmacology, Bacterial Proteins, genetics, Carbon-Oxygen Ligases, DNA Transposable Elements, Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field, Enterococcus, classification, drug effects, isolation & purification, Environmental Microbiology, Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections, Humans, Microbial Sensitivity Tests, Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length, Vancomycin, Vancomycin Resistance

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          The occurrence, structure, and mobility of Tn1546-like elements were studied in environmental vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) isolated from municipal sewage, activated sludge, pharmaceutical waste derived from antibiotic production, seawater, blue mussels, and soil. Of 200 presumptive VRE isolates tested, 71 (35%) harbored vanA. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis analysis allowed the detection of 26 subtypes, which were identified as Enterococcus faecium (n = 13), E. casseliflavus (n = 6), E. mundtii (n = 3), E. faecalis (n = 3), and E. durans (n = 1) by phenotypic tests and 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing. Long PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (L-PCR-RFLP) analysis of Tn1546-like elements and PCR analysis of internal regions revealed the presence of seven groups among the 29 strains studied. The most common group (group 1) corresponded to the structure of Tn1546 in the prototype strain E. faecium BM4147. Two novel L-PCR-RFLP patterns (groups 3 and 4) were found for E. casseliflavus strains. Indistinguishable Tn1546-like elements occurred in VRE strains belonging to different species or originating from different sources. Interspecies plasmid-mediated transfer of vancomycin resistance to E. faecium BM4105 was demonstrated for E. faecalis, E. mundtii, and E. durans. This study indicates that VRE, including species other than E. faecium and E. faecalis, are widespread in nature and in environments that are not exposed to vancomycin selection and not heavily contaminated with feces, such as seawater, blue mussels, and nonagricultural soil. Tn1546-like elements can readily transfer between enterococci of different species and ecological origins, therefore raising questions about the origin of these transposable elements and their possible transfer between environmental and clinical settings.

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