Enterococcus faecalis is a spherical bacteria that is part of the normal flora of humans. In fact, according to Todar's Online Textbook of Bacteriology, Entercoccus faecalis is commonly found in the vaginal and intestinal regions of about 40 to 80 percent of individuals. Apart from humans and animals, this bacteria can also be found in the soil and water. While some strains of Enterococcus faecalis can cause opportunistic and hospital-acquired infections in humans, many other strains have been used for a variety of beneficial purposes by both nature and man.
Along with other bacteria that are part of the normal flora, Enterococcus faecalis prevents the colonization of pathogenic bacteria in the body of its host by competing with the pathogens for binding sites and nutrients. They may also prime the immune system by inducing the production of low levels of antibodies against its own components which, in turn, makes the immune system more efficient. These characteristics of Entercoccus faecalis can also be used for the production of probiotics which are dietary supplements and foods that help to treat conditions such as infectious diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, tooth decay and periodontal disease, and vaginal infections.
Probiotics are available in the form of yogurt, fermented milk, miso, soy products and some juices and, although probiotics are generally considered safe, an article published in the June 2006 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns against the use of probiotics in premature babies and immunocompromised individuals, as the exact mechanism, appropriate administrative regimens, and interaction of probiotics with other drugs and foods is not completely known.
Strains of Enterococcus faecalis play an important role in the dairy industry and occur in a variety of cheeses, whey and natural milk. They are more commonly used in southern Europe and help in the development of the flavor of the cheese and can also be used as cheese starter cultures. As per a June 2003 article in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, Entercoccus faecalis also produces a toxin known as bacteriocin that can prevent the growth of several other bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus and Vibrio cholerae, thereby preventing the spoilage of dairy products.
Another relatively recent use of Enterococcus faecalis that is still being actively researched upon is acne treatment. A study published in the July 2008 edition of the Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology states that a protein component from SL5 strain of Enterococcus faecalis has the ability to inhibit the growth of a bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes, which is commonly associated with acne. Hence, this may be a novel treatment for acne.