World reports on vancomycin resistance emerged in the late 1980s and first documented in Western Europe and later in the United States. Since then, isolation of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) has been continuously reported in several geographic locations, including Brazil. The widespread occurrence of strains resistant to multiple antibiotics present a challenge to clinicians when treating enterococci caused nosocomial infections. Several molecular typing methods have been used to study the epidemiology of VRE. In this study, genetic characterization of vancomycin resistance and molecular epidemiology were performed in VREs isolated from patients in two hospitals in Ribeirão Preto, Sao Paulo/Brazil, the University Hospital of the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirao Preto, University of Sao Paulo (HCFMRP-USP) and the Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Ribeirão Preto (SCMRP), from September 2008 to September 2010. The first five VREs isolated in the HCFMRP-USP, in mid 2005/2006 were also included in this study. Species and genotypes of 53 VREs determined by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were all E. faecium and had the vanA gene. MICs for vancomycin determined by Etest® were >256µg/mL for all E. faecium isolated in the two hospitals, whereas daptomycin showed MIC values within the limit of susceptibility for all the enterococci analyzed. acm and esp genes predominated as virulence factors. The first five vancomycin resistant E. faecium (VREfm) isolated in mid 2005/2006 showed an intact Tn1546 transposon, whereas all E. faecium isolated later, September 2008 to September 2010, gave a larger amplified DNA fragment than the expected 4,4kb gene cluster vanRSHAX. Results of overlapping PCR and sequencing (primers P11-P12) of the transposon region that amplified the larger than expected DNA fragment showed that 81% (n=43) of the these VREfm had a deletion of the left end of Tn1546 and also a IS1251, between the vanS and vanH genes. The analysis of VREfm PFGEs indicated the occurrence of clonal disseminations with some PFGE profiles at specific times. The different PFGE profiles of the first VREfm (2005-2006) in relation to the latter isolates showed that the common ancestor could not be determined by PFGE. However, MLST results indicated that VREfm isolated, in the period from 2008 to 2010, could be direct descendants of the first five VREfm or could have evolved from a common ancestor. MLST analysis of 31 VREfm isolates selected according to the PFGE results, showed that there were nine different STs, among these five new STs (656, 657, 658, 659, 660). The predominant STs were ST412 and 478. All STs identified belonged to clonal complex 17 (CC17), except for ST658, a singleton. The ST78 that has spread worldwide is being identified in Brazil for first time in this study. MLST confirmed PFGE results showing that there is a clonal link between strains isolated in the two hospitals of Ribeirao Preto, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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