Seventy-eight Enterococcus faecium strains from various sources were characterized by random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD)-PCR, amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP), and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis of SmaI restriction patterns. Two main genomic groups (I and II) were obtained in both RAPD-PCR and AFLP analyses. DNA-DNA hybridization values between representative strains of both groups demonstrated a mean DNA-DNA reassociation level of 71%. PFGE analysis revealed high genetic strain diversity within the two genomic groups. Only group I contained strains originating from human clinical samples or strains that were vancomycin-resistant or beta-hemolytic. No differentiating phenotypic features between groups I and II were found using the rapid ID 32 STREP system. The two groups could be further subdivided into, respectively, four and three subclusters in both RAPD-PCR and AFLP analyses, and a high correlation was seen between the subclusters generated by these two methods. Subclusters of group I were to some extent correlated with origin, pathogenicity, and bacteriocinogeny of the strains. Host specificity of E. faecium strains was not confirmed.
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