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Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) are increasingly isolated from clinical specimens. One hundred clinical isolates of enterococci (E. casseliflavus/E. flavescens [n = 10], E. faecalis [n = 34], E. faecium [n = 43], E. avium [n = 1], E. gallinarum [n = 11], and E. raffinosus [n = 1]) were examined for the presence of vanA, vanB, vanC-1, and vanC-2/3 genes by a single multiplex PCR performed directly with colonies from blood agar plates. Six previously characterized VRE strains which carry either vanA, vanB, vanC-1, or vanC-2 genes were used as controls. To discriminate among van genes, the PCR amplicons were digested with MspI and were electrophoresed on agarose gels. Because of significant sequence homology between vanC-2 and vanC-3 genes, this assay is unable to discriminate these genes from each other; therefore, these are referred to as vanC-2/3 genes. PCR products were detected in 63 of the 100 clinical isolates. The restriction fragment length patterns were consistent with vanA for 10 strains, vanB for 30 strains, vanC-1 for 12 strains, vanC-2 for 6 strains, and vanA and vanC-1 for 1 strain. The vancomycin MICs for the isolates with restriction fragment length patterns consistent with vanA and vanB were all > and = 64 micrograms/ml. The vancomycin MICs for the isolates with restriction fragment length patterns consistent with vanC-1 or vanC-2 were 4 to 8 micrograms/ml. The vancomycin MICs for the isolates from which no PCR amplicons were produced were 2 to 4 micrograms/ml. A PCR product was produced in four isolates (vancomycin MICs, 4 to > 256 micrograms/ml) with restriction fragment length patterns differing from those for the control vanA, vanB, vanC-1, and vanC-2 isolates. DNA sequencing of these amplicons revealed that two of the four isolates had nucleic acid sequences which were closely related to the published sequence for the vanB gene and two had nucleic acid sequences which were closely related to the published sequence for the vanC-2 and vanC-3 genes. Multiplex PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism appears to be a useful and convenient method for rapidly detecting and discriminating genotypes for vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus spp. in the clinical laboratory. In instances in which unusual restriction fragment patterns of PCR amplicons occur, DNA sequencing can be performed to discriminate van genotypes.