Computer-assisted probabilistic identification of 1,079 reference and 516 field strains of gram-negative, rod-shaped bacteria are described. Success rates have been achieved which compare favorably with those obtained by conventional identification. The choice of tests and taxa for inclusion in a probability matrix and estimation of the probabilities are discussed. Problems arise when information is unavailable or tests are meaningless or inapplicable. Mathematical methods are needed for these problems and for tests that are linked causally or logically. The allotment of probabilities is made more difficult by the existence of known biotypes within particular taxa and by the geographical distribution of such biotypes. Automatic modification in the computer of the allotted probabilities for the taxa by the results found for fresh strains is not recommended. A method for selecting those tests with the greatest discriminating power between suggested taxa from tests not already used is described.


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