Enterococcal infections are caused by a group of gram-positive bacteria called enterococci, which normally reside in the intestine of healthy people but sometimes cause infection.
(See also Overview of Bacteria.)
There are more than 17 species of enterococci. Many species normally occupy the intestinal tract and do not usually cause disease. These bacteria, called resident flora, cause disease only under certain circumstances—for example, when they enter other parts of the body.
Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium are the species that most commonly cause infections in people.
Enterococci typically cause the following:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Infection of the heart valves (endocarditis)
- Infections of the skin and tissues under the skin (cellulitis)
- Infection of the prostate (prostatitis)
- Wound infections
- Abscesses in the abdomen
Symptoms depend on the location of the infection.
Doctors give antibiotics and drain any abscesses. Certain strains of enterococci have become resistant to many antibiotics and can be difficult to treat. Strains that are resistant to vancomycin are particularly problematic.
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