In the present study, 20 enterococci belonging to the species Enterococcus faecalis (12 strains), Enterococcus faecium (4), Enterococcus durans (2), Enterococcus hirae (1) and Enterococcus mundtii (1) and originating from a total production chain of swine meat commodities were analysed to investigate the diversity of their tetracycline resistance gene tet(M). PCR - RFLP and sequence analysis showed that the tet(M) gene of most strains can be correlated with the Tn916 transposon. Conversely, tet(M) of six E. faecalis and the E. hirae strain, all isolated from pig faecal samples, may be associated with previously undescribed members of the Tn916-1545 transposon family. In vitro filter conjugation trials showed the ability of 50% of the enterococcal strains, including E. mundtii, to transfer the tet(M) gene (and the associated Tn916 and new transposons) to E. faecalis or Listeria innocua recipient strains. tet(M) gene transfer to L. innocua recipient was also directly observed in meat food products. Collectively, these sequence and conjugation data indicate that various transposons can be responsible of the spread of tetracycline resistance in enterococci and validate the opinion that Enterococcus species are important sources of antibiotic resistance genes for potentially pathogenic bacteria occurring in the food chain.
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