Vancomycin-Variable Enterococci Can Give Rise to Constitutive Resistance during Antibiotic Therapy Journal Articles uri icon

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  • ABSTRACT Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) are notorious clinical pathogens restricting the use of glycopeptide antibiotics in the clinic setting. Routine surveillance to detect VRE isolated from patients relies on PCR bioassays and chromogenic agar-based test methods. In recent years, we and others have reported the emergence of enterococcal strains harboring a “silent” copy of vancomycin resistance genes that confer a vancomycin-susceptible phenotype (vancomycin-susceptible enterococci [VSE]) and thus escape detection using drug sensitivity screening tests. Alarmingly, these strains are able to convert to a resistance phenotype (VSE→VRE) during antibiotic treatment, severely compromising the success of therapy. Such strains have been termed vancomycin-variable enterococci (VVE). We have investigated the molecular mechanisms leading to the restoration of resistance in VVE isolates through the whole-genome sequencing of resistant isolates, measurement of resistance gene expression, and quantification of the accumulation of drug-resistant peptidoglycan precursors. The results demonstrate that VVE strains can revert to a VRE phenotype through the constitutive expression of the vancomycin resistance cassette. This is accomplished through a variety of changes in the DNA region upstream of the resistance genes that includes both a deletion of a likely transcription inhibitory secondary structure and the introduction of a new unregulated promoter. The VSE→VRE transition of VVE can occur in patients during the course of antibiotic therapy, resulting in treatment failure. These VVE strains therefore pose a new challenge to the current regimen of diagnostic tests used for VRE detection in the clinic setting.


  • Thaker, Maulik N
  • Kalan, Lindsay
  • Waglechner, Nicholas
  • Eshaghi, Alireza
  • Patel, Samir N
  • Poutanen, Susan
  • Willey, Barbara
  • Coburn, Bryan
  • McGeer, Allison
  • Low, Donald E
  • Wright, Gerard

publication date

  • March 2015