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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2007 Feb;49(1):22-7.

Tracing isolates of bacterial species by multilocus variable number of tandem repeat analysis (MLVA).

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


All bacterial genomes contain multiple loci of repetitive DNA. Repeat unit sizes and repeat sequences may vary when multiple loci are considered for different isolates of an individual microbial species. Moreover, it has been documented on many occasions that the number of repeat units per locus is a strain-defining parameter. Consequently, there is isolate-specificity in the number of repeats per locus when different strains of a given bacterial species are compared. The experimental assessment of this variability for a number of different loci has been called 'multilocus variable number of tandem repeat analysis' (MLVA). The approach can be supported or extended by locus-specific DNA sequencing for establishing mutations in the individual repeat units, which usually enhances the resolution of the approach considerably. Essentially, MLVA with or without supportive sequencing has been developed for all of the medically relevant bacterial species and can be used effectively for tracing outbreaks or other forms of bacterial dissemination. MLVA is a modern, timely and versatile bacterial typing methodology.

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