Objectives: Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium is a leading cause of MDR hospital infection. Two genetically definable populations of E. faecium have been identified: hospital-adapted MDR isolates (clade A) and vancomycin-susceptible commensal strains (clade B). VanN-type vancomycin resistance was identified in two isolates of E. faecium recovered from blood and faeces of an immunocompromised patient. To understand the genomic context in which VanN occurred in the hospitalized patient, the risk it posed for transmission in the hospital and its origins, it was of interest to determine where these strains placed within the E. faecium population structure.
Methods: We obtained the genome sequence of the VanN isolates and performed comparative and functional genomics of the chromosome and plasmid content.
Results: We show that, in these strains, VanN occurs in a genetic background that clusters with clade B E. faecium, which is highly unusual. We characterized the chromosome and the conjugative plasmid that carries VanN resistance in these strains, pUV24. This plasmid exhibits signatures of in-host selection on the vanN operon regulatory system, which are associated with a constitutive expression of vancomycin resistance. VanN resistance in clade B strains may go undetected by current methods.
Conclusions: We report a case of vancomycin resistance in a commensal lineage of E. faecium responsible for an atypical bacteraemia in an immunocompromised patient. A reservoir of transferable glycopeptide resistance in the community could pose a concern for public health.