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Enterococcal bacteremia is being increasingly reported. Although there have been a number of recent studies of enterococcal bacteremia in adults, there are few studies involving children. We carried out a prospective study to determine the epidemiologic, clinical and laboratory characteristics of such bacteremia in children.Clinical and microbiologic data were recorded prospectively for all episodes of enterococcal bacteremia occurring during a 3-year period between January 1, 1995, and December 31, 1997.Seventy-five episodes of enterococcal bacteremia occurring in children at our institution during a 3-year period were prospectively analyzed. Serious underlying disease was present in 67 (89.3%) episodes, and in 48 (64.%) episodes patients had received antibiotics during the 2 weeks preceding enterococcal bacteremia. Forty-seven (62.7%) episodes were nosocomial in origin and 26 (34.7%) were polymicrobial. Fifty (66.7%) episodes occurred in children 1 year old or less. A source of bacteremia was identified in 33 (44%) episodes, intravascular device being the most common identifiable source. Of the 73 isolates identified to species level, there were 36 Enterococcus faecium, 36 Enterococcus faecalis and one Enterococcus avium. In 60 (80%) episodes appropriate anti-enterococcal therapy was given. The overall mortality rate was 7.5%. Four clinical patterns of infection were identified: self-limited bacteremia, 16.0%; low grade sepsis with a favorable outcome after specific therapy, 65.3%; severe and prolonged infection associated with a high mortality rate, 14.7%; and fulminant neonatal sepsis in previously healthy babies, 4.0%.Enterococcal bacteremia in children comprises a heterogeneous group. Bacteremias that are mild and self-limited and respond promptly to antibiotic therapy appear to be more common in children.