We describe here an examination of the validity of molecular types of Campylobacter jejuni as defined by separation of SmaI-digested DNA using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), recently suggested as part of a molecular subtyping scheme. Thirty-four Danish strains from humans, water, poultry and cattle were assigned to one of six SmaI ‘profile groups’ (PGs), with two additional strains included as genotypically distinct controls. The interstrain relationships were reexamined by PFGE of SalI, KpnI and BamHI-digested DNA, and also by serotyping with heat-stable antigens. All outbreak-related strains were indistinguishable by all criteria, as were two sets of two randomly-isolated human strains. Two groups of indistinguishable isolates contained randomly isolated strains from more than one source (poultry, humans and/or cattle), a finding with significant epidemiological connotations. All ‘genetically identical’ strains belonged to the same serotype, whereas genetic differences were detected between strains assigned to the same SmaI PG but differing in serotype. We conclude that PFGE-based genetic fingerprinting can yield invaluable data for epidemiological studies of sporadic C. jejuni infection, but that results based on one restriction site polymorphism must be checked with another enzyme.
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