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J Infect Dis. 1988 Feb;157(2):280-6.

A broad-spectrum probe for molecular epidemiology of bacteria: ribosomal RNA.

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Department of Pediatrics, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19129.


We investigated the use of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) as a probe for molecular epidemiology of bacterial pathogens. The chromosomal DNA of Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas cepacia, and nontypable Haemophilus influenzae was digested with EcoRI. Agarose gel electrophoresis, Southern blotting, and hybridization by 32P-labeled rRNA revealed eight to 13 bands. The P. cepacia and H. influenzae banding patterns, observed by using an E. coli rRNA probe, were identical to those produced with homologous rRNA probes. Polymorphism of several hybridization bands distinguished all E. coli isolates, nine of 10 H. influenzae isolates, and seven of eight P. cepacia isolates. Two to four bands were common to all P. cepacia and E. coli isolates. The banding patterns of H. influenzae isolates cultured from the trachea and blood of an infant and from the mother's cervix were identical. These data demonstrate that this method is a widely applicable system for determining the molecular epidemiology of genetically diverse gram-negative organisms.

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