Ninety-three clinical isolates of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) collected from nine hospitals in Taiwan were examined for the presence of vanA, vanB, vanC1, or vanC2/vanC3 genes by a multiplex PCR. Forty-seven of these VRE isolates were vanA positive, 1 contained both vanC1 and vanA, 40 harboured vanB, 2 were vanC1, and 3 were identified to be vanC2/vanC3. Twenty-four vanA isolates were sensitive to teicoplanin and thus did not have a typical VanA phenotype. Five isolates with the VanC phenotype harboured vanB. None of the 40 clinically isolated vancomycin-susceptible E. faecium or E. faecalis and the vancomycin-resistant Leuconostoc and Pediococcus isolates were positive for any of the van genes. While performing nosocomial surveillance, VRE were isolated from 47 of 467 rectal swabs by culture. Compared with the conventional culture method, the sensitivity and specificity of the multiplex PCR for detecting and identifying vancomycin-resistance genes in enterococci directly from culture-positive broth were 97·9% and 100%, respectively. The results suggest that genotypic characterization of vancomycin-resistance is necessary for all clinical VRE isolates and that the multiplex PCR assay can be an alternative method for this purpose.