What is Enterococcus faecium?

June 10, 2023 3 min read

What is Enterococcus faecium?

Enterococcus faecium is a Gram-positive bacterium that is commonly found in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, as well as in soil and water. It is a facultative anaerobe, meaning that it can grow in the presence or absence of oxygen. While Enterococcus faecium is typically considered a commensal microbe, it has been associated with various infections, especially in immunocompromised individuals. In this article, we will discuss the characteristics of Enterococcus faecium, its potential benefits, and the possible health concerns associated with its presence in the gut.

Characteristics of Enterococcus faecium

Enterococcus faecium is a spherical bacterium that is approximately 0.5-1.0 μm in diameter. It is a member of the Enterococcaceae family and is closely related to other Enterococcus species, including Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus hirae, and Enterococcus durans. Enterococcus faecium is capable of surviving in a wide range of environmental conditions, including high salt concentrations and low pH levels. It is also resistant to several antibiotics, which has led to concerns about its potential role in antibiotic resistance.

Potential benefits of Enterococcus faecium

Despite its association with infections, Enterococcus faecium has been found to have some potential benefits when present in the gut. Here are a few potential benefits of Enterococcus faecium:

  1. Probiotic properties: Enterococcus faecium has been identified as a potential probiotic, which means that it may provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. Some studies have suggested that Enterococcus faecium may help to regulate the immune system and improve the barrier function of the gut.
  2. Production of antimicrobial substances: Enterococcus faecium is capable of producing antimicrobial substances, including bacteriocins and organic acids. These substances can help to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, potentially reducing the risk of infections.
  3. Digestive health: Enterococcus faecium may help to promote digestive health by aiding in the breakdown of food and the absorption of nutrients. It may also help to prevent diarrhea by reducing the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut.

Health concerns associated with Enterococcus faecium

While Enterococcus faecium has potential benefits, it has also been associated with various infections. Here are some of the health concerns associated with Enterococcus faecium:

  1. Antibiotic resistance: Enterococcus faecium is naturally resistant to several antibiotics, and it has been identified as a significant contributor to the spread of antibiotic resistance. This is particularly concerning in hospital settings, where Enterococcus faecium infections can be difficult to treat.
  2. Infections: Enterococcus faecium has been associated with various infections, including urinary tract infections, endocarditis, and bacteremia. These infections are often more severe in individuals who are immunocompromised or have underlying medical conditions.
  3. Virulence factors: Enterococcus faecium is capable of producing various virulence factors that can contribute to its pathogenicity. These factors include adhesins, biofilm formation, and capsule production.

Overall, the presence of Enterococcus faecium in the gut can have both potential benefits and health concerns. Further research is needed to better understand the role of Enterococcus faecium in gut health and the risks associated with its presence.

References:

Franz, C. M. A. P., Muscholl-Silberhorn, A., Yousif, N. M. K., Vancanneyt, M., Swings, J., & Holzapfel, W. H. (2001). Incidence of virulence factors and antibiotic resistance among enterococci isolated from food. Applied and environmental microbiology, 67(9), 4385-4389. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.67.9.4385-4389.2001

Kühn, I., Iversen, A., Burman, L. G., Olsson-Liljequist, B., Franklin, A., Finn, M., & Aarestrup, F. M. (2000). Epidemiology and ecology of enterococci, with special emphasis on antibiotic resistant strains, in animals, humans and the environment—Example of an ongoing project within the European research programme. International journal of antimicrobial agents, 14(4), 337-342. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0924-8579(00)00145-1

Eaton, T. J., Gasson, M. J., & Molecular Biology of Gram-positive Bacteria Symposium. (2001). Molecular screening of Enterococcus virulence determinants and potential for genetic exchange between food and medical isolates. Journal of food protection, 64(6), 849-859. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-64.6.849

Pessione, E., & Cirrincione, S. (2016). Bioactive molecules released in food by lactic acid bacteria: encrypted peptides and biogenic amines. Frontiers in microbiology, 7, 876. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.00876

Chajęcka-Wierzchowska, W., Zadernowska, A., Nalepa, B., Sierpińska, M., & Laniewska-Trokenheim, Ł. (2012). Enterococcus spp.–from commensals to leading causes of drug resistant infections–are they still in the shadow of staphylococci?. Journal of microbiology and biotechnology, 22(5), 677-690. https://doi.org/10.4014/jmb.1110.10005

Lebreton, F., Willems, R. J. L., & Gilmore, M. S. (2014). Enterococcus diversity, origins in nature, and gut colonization.


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