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Clin Lab Med. 1985 Sep;5(3):413-36.

Plasmid fingerprinting. A tool for bacterial strain identification and surveillance of nosocomial and community-acquired infections.


Plasmid fingerprinting provides a rapid and dependable means of identifying bacterial isolates of the same strain. The stability, wide distribution, and diverse nature and size of extrachromosomal elements make it suitable for virtually all bacterial genera. There are many different procedures available for plasmid screening, and the one chosen depends primarily on the types of organisms to be analyzed. Some procedures are better suited to gram-positive organisms; others are better for visualizing the very large plasmids often seen in Pseudomonas and Rhizobium species. The key to the plasmid fingerprinting technique is agarose gel electrophoresis. In this step of the technique, it is important to differentiate open circular from closed circular forms of plasmids and to recognize the "smile effect." Plasmid fingerprinting can be utilized for epidemiologic studies of both nosocomial and community-acquired infections. The use of restriction endonuclease analysis can greatly enhance the ability of the investigator to differentiate strains that harbor only a single plasmid. Plasmid fingerprinting often provides the only differential characteristic for strains involved in epidemics.

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