Prevalence and characterization of Enterococcus spp. isolated from Brazilian foods.Food Microbiol 2008; 25(5):668-75FM
Enterococci can be used in the food industry as starter or probiotic cultures. However, enterococci are also implicated in severe multi-resistant nosocomial infections. In this study, the prevalence of enterococci in selected Brazilian foodstuffs (raw and pasteurized milk, meat products, cheeses and vegetables) was evaluated. Phenotypic and PCR protocols were used for species identification. Tests for production of gelatinase, haemolysin, bacteriocin and bile salt hydrolysis were done with all enterococci isolates, whereas molecular determination of virulence markers (genes esp, gel, ace, as, efaA, hyl and cylA) and antibiotic resistance was checked only for Enterococcus faecium and Enterococcus faecalis isolates. The antibiotic-resistant isolates were assayed for biofilm formation and adhesion to mammalian cells. From the 120 food samples analyzed, 52.5% were positive for enterococci, meat and cheese being the most contaminated. E. faecium was the predominant species, followed by E. faecalis, E. casseliflavus and Enterococcus gallinarum. Phenotypic tests indicated that 67.7% of isolates hydrolyzed bile salts, 15.2% produced bacteriocin, 12.0% were beta-hemolytic and 18.2% produced gelatinase. Antibiotic resistance (gentamicin, tetracycline and erythromycin) and genes encoding for virulence traits were more frequent in E. faecalis than in E. faecium. Three E. faecium isolates were resistant to vancomycin. Among antibiotic-resistant isolates, 72.4% of E. faecalis were able to form biofilm and 13.8% to adhere to Caco-2 cells. Antibiotic-resistant E. faecalis and E. faecium isolates were grouped by RAPD-PCR and a scattered distribution was noted, indicating that resistance was not related to a particular clone. The spread of virulence/resistance traits in isolates of the two species and different RAPD-types suggest the pathogenic potential of both species. By contrast, the recovery of bacteriocinogenic E. faecium isolates with no virulence traits suggests their potential for biotechnological applications. In conclusion, our results showed that enterococci from Brazilian foods present important dualist aspects for food safety.