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BMC Microbiol. 2009 Oct 23;9:223. doi: 10.1186/1471-2180-9-223.

Multilocus sequence typing of Cronobacter sakazakii and Cronobacter malonaticus reveals stable clonal structures with clinical significance which do not correlate with biotypes.

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Biological Sciences Department, University of Warwick, Gibbet Hill Road, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK.



The Cronobacter genus (Enterobacter sakazakii) has come to prominence due to its association with infant infections, and the ingestion of contaminated reconstituted infant formula. C. sakazakii and C. malonaticus are closely related, and are defined according their biotype. Due to the ubiquitous nature of the organism, and the high severity of infection for the immunocompromised, a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme has been developed for the fast and reliable identification and discrimination of C. sakazakii and C. malonaticus strains. It was applied to 60 strains of C. sakazakii and 16 strains of C. malonaticus, including the index strains used to define the biotypes. The strains were from clinical and non-clinical sources between 1951 and 2008 in USA, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and the Far East.


This scheme uses 7 loci; atpD, fusA, glnS, gltB, gyrB, infB, and pps. There were 12 sequence types (ST) identified in C. sakazakii, and 3 in C. malonaticus. A third (22/60) of C. sakazakii strains were in ST4, which had almost equal numbers of clinical and infant formula isolates from 1951 to 2008. ST8 may represent a particularly virulent grouping of C. sakazakii as 7/8 strains were clinical in origin which had been isolated between 1977 - 2006, from four countries. C. malonaticus divided into three STs. The previous Cronobacter biotyping scheme did not clearly correspond with STs nor with species.


In conclusion, MLST is a more robust means of identifying and discriminating between C. sakazakii and C. malonaticus than biotyping. The MLST database for these organisms is available online at

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