Poorly operating wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) result in faecal pollution of receiving waters, posing a health risk to humans and animals. The aim of this study was to determine the antimicrobial resistance patterns and presence of virulent genes in Enterococcus spp. isolated from three WWTPs' final effluent and receiving waters in the North West Province, South Africa. Sixty-three Enterococcus spp. were identified and their antimicrobial susceptibility, as well as the presence of five virulence genes, determined. The antibiotic inhibition zone diameter data were subject to cluster analysis. Sixty-eight percent of the screened Enterococcus spp. were resistant to three or more antibiotics and harboured plasmids. Five virulence genes were detected and six multi-virulence profiles observed. Cluster analysis indicated groupings of isolates from all three effluent points downstream together, and between plants 1 and 2 together. The findings of this study have demonstrated that Enterococcus spp. harbouring virulence factors and plasmids that mediate multiple antibiotic resistance are present in effluent and receiving water systems that support various social needs. This is a cause for concern and it is recommended that Enterococcus be used as an additional faecal indicator when microbiological quality of water is assessed.

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