During 2002–2003 increased numbers of notified salmonellosis due to S. enterica serovar Agona were observed in Germany. In order to understand the recent spread of this serovar and to trace the route of infection to its source, a new phage-typing scheme and pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) were used to analyse these isolates. By using 14 bacteriophages, 52 phage types were distinguished among the S. Agona strains. PFGE also differentiated 52 different patterns. A combination of both methods generated 94 clonal types among 165 S. Agona strains originating from Germany and other countries including the United States, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, India, Austria and Finland, indicating a great biological diversity within this serovar. However, 36 recent S. Agona isolates from infantile gastroenteritis in Germany, from an untreated batch of aniseed imported from Turkey and from fennel-aniseed-caraway infusion (packed in tea bags) revealed clonal identity indicating their epidemiological relatedness as a new source of infection. It is suggested that strains of S. Agona will continue to be of public health concern, and that phage typing together with PFGE typing should be applied as reliable and rapid tools for epidemiological subtyping and future monitoring.
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