Enterococcus faecium characteristics, morphology, pathogenesis

David Holt

Enterococcus faecium It is a Gram positive coccoid bacterium that is part of the commensal microbiota of the intestine of man and animals. They have also been found in oropharyngeal, vaginal and skin secretions.

Being part of the human microbiota, it was believed to have low pathogenicity. However, it is currently considered an important pathogen in nosocomial infections, being the second most frequently isolated bacterial genus in hospitalized patients..

Among the pathologies in which it may be involved are severe urinary tract infections, wounds, bacteremia and endocarditis. Most infections originate from the endogenous microbiota, although it can be transmitted from person to person or through consumption of contaminated food or water.

E. faecium it is able to colonize the respiratory tract and skin, and survive on inanimate object surfaces for prolonged periods. It is less frequent in clinical isolates than E. faecalis.

While E. faecalis represents 80 to 90% of the microorganisms found in clinical samples,  E. faecium it only reaches 5 to 10% of isolates. However, E. faecium exhibits increased resistance to antimicrobials.

Article index

  • 1 Features
    • 1.1 Biochemical characteristics
    • 1.2 Susceptibility to antibiotics
  • 2 Morphology
  • 3 Taxonomy
  • 4 Virulence factors
  • 5 Pathologies
  • 6 Treatment
  • 7 Prevention
  • 8 Industrial benefits
  • 9 References


They are facultative anaerobes, they ferment glucose and other carbohydrates obtaining lactic acid as the final product, but they do not produce gas..

Grows at 37 ° C in 24 hours of incubation on enriched media such as blood agar, chocolate and other special media for enterococcus.

Biochemical characteristics

Enterococcus faecium It is capable of growing in nutritive broths with 6.5% NaCl and hydrolyzing esculin in the presence of 40% bile salts. Can withstand pH up to 9.6.

Produce leucine aminopeptidase (LAP) and give a negative reaction to the catalase test.

Likewise, Enterococcus faecium hydrolyzes L-pyrrolidonyl-β-naphthylamide (PYR) and according to the Lancefield classification it belongs to group D.

The aforementioned characteristics are fulfilled for the entire Genus Enterococcus.

Now, the specific characteristics to identify the species faecium they are: positive arabinose fermentation, negative tellurite, mobility and negative pigment.

Susceptibility to antibiotics

Recommended antimicrobials for Enterococcus faecium is vancomycin first choice.

However, E. faecium has a high capacity to acquire resistance genes for these antibiotics, so most isolates are resistant to vancomycin.

If it is a urine sample it is recommended to test nitrofurantoin, tetracycline and ciprofloxacin. In isolated strains of systemic infections such as bacteremia, endocarditis, etc., high-level gentamicin and streptomycin should also be tested, and the presence of β-lactamase should be determined..

For vancomycin-resistant strains, it is recommended to try linezolid, teicoplanin, chloramphenicol, tetracycline, erythromycin, and rifampin..


They are Gram positive cocci that are arranged in pairs or short chains. It does not form spores and does not present flagella, therefore they are non-mobile.

In blood agar the colonies of Enterococcus faecium They are creamy, greyish-white in color and generally show Gamma hemolysis. While in Esculin Bile Agar, the colonies blacken the medium around the colony.

In Slanetz-Bartley Agar (with 1% TTC) the colonies are red-brown in color and in KF Agar (with 1% TTC) the colonies are pink, surrounded by a yellow area..


Domain: Bacteria.

Phylum: Firmicutes.

Class: Bacilli.

Order: Lactobacillales.

Family: Enterococcaceae.

Genus: Enterococcus.

Species: faecium.

Virulence factors

Among the most prominent virulence factors in this microorganism are:

-Hemolysins, with cytolytic action on some cells allowing invasion into the bloodstream.

-Surface protein and collagen-binding adhesin both promote colonization and hence infection.

-Likewise, it presents other virulence factors such as gelatinase, aggregation substance, lipase, hemagglutinins and its high capacity to acquire antibiotic resistance genes..


Most infections arise from the invasion of the individual's own microbiota, that is, it produces endogenous infections.

It is seen mainly in urinary tract infections, biliary tract infections, endocarditis, and septicemia..

Enterococcus are generally a rare cause of acute bacterial meningitis, representing only 0.3% to 4.9% of cases..

However, when it occurs, 10% are produced by the faecium species, 88% by faecalis and 2% by other Enterococcus species..

Endocarditis mainly occurs in the elderly or in patients with underlying vulvolopathies who are subjected to manipulations of the gastrointestinal or genitourinary tracts..


Enterococcus faecium it tends to be more resistant to antimicrobials than faecalis. Multi-resistance in these microorganisms represents a serious problem at the hospital level, and its control is a real challenge..

Vancomycin resistance is more common in E. faecium (50%) than in E. faecalis (5%).

Until now, one of the antibiotics that has remained without resistance to Enterococcus faecium is linezolid (Oxazolidinone). This antibiotic has the advantage that it can be administered orally and has excellent bioavailability..

But there are also other alternatives such as Streptogramins (Quinupristin / dalfopristin) only for E. faecium, since it is not active against E. faecalis. As well as Lipopeptides: (Daptomycin) and Glycylcycline (Tigecycline).

However, before making any therapeutic decision, it is necessary to have the laboratory results of the antibiogram in hand, in this way, the available antibiotics can be used better..


This bacterium is very difficult to control, however it will always be useful to comply with the standardized aseptic norms of health personnel and the correct sterilization and disposal of contaminated material..

Industrial benefits

Enterococcus faecium It is used for its beneficial effects in animal production, specifically in rabbits.

The soy product fermented with this microorganism causes a reduction of 18.4% in total cholesterol and an increase of 17.8% in the HDL fraction..

Enterococcus faecium It can also be used as a probiotic, incorporating it into the diet of young pigs to prevent diarrhea problems after weaning.

It is believed that E. faecium modulates the immune response, allowing antibiotics to be reduced or dispensed with.

An added benefit of incorporating E. faecium to low-protein diets in pigs is the reduction of ammonia nitrogen in feces, this minimizes environmental pollution by reducing the characteristic odor of excreta.


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  4. Wikipedia contributors. Enterococcus faecium. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. August 22, 2018, 16:38 UTC. Available at: en.wikipedia.org
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