Its clear that Enterococcuss ability to acquire mobile elements has significantly contributed to its drug resistance, says Paulsen. The vancomycin resistance is found on a mobile element in the genome.
TIGRs president and director, Claire M. Fraser, Ph.D., says the deciphered Enterococcus genome will provide an important tool for biomedical researchers. The identification of a novel vancomycin-resistant transposon in E. faecalis demonstrates the power of genomics to reveal new insights into the biology of important human pathogens, Fraser says. This information is critically important in the search for new antibiotics and vaccines to combat infections diseases.
E. faecalis lives in the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and animals and is often found in soil, sewage, water and food as a result of fecal contamination. While the bacterium is normally symbiotic in the human gut causing no harm it can cause serious infections when other tissues are exposed to the bacterium. Those maladies include infective endocarditis, bacteremia, and urinary tract infections.
Physicians often use vancomycin to treat opportunistic E. faecalis infections if other drugs fail to slow their progress. But the growing number of bacterial strains that are resistant to such antibiotics has made it more difficult for physicians to treat those infections effectively.
An even greater concern is that E. faecalis has been found to act as a reservoir for vancomycin resistance. Other researchers already have observed how resistance to vancomycin can be transferred from E. faecalis to more aggresively pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus. That transferral of drug resistance has become a major concern for physicians around the globe.