The population genetics of and its molecular epidemiology in villages in the Eastern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea were investigated. Multilocus enzyme electrophoresis (MLEE) was used to analyse 164 isolates from humans and animals. These were divided into 33 electrophoretic types (ETs), four of which contained 65% of the isolates. The mean genetic diversity ( = number of ETs) for 145 human isolates was 0·18, and the mean number of alleles at five polymorphic loci was 2·6. The species appeared to be recombinant, as there was a lack of linkage disequilibrium, and 25% of all the possible combinations of alleles was present in the population. PFGE analysis using the enzymes and l divided 157 of the isolates into 99 PFGE types, demonstrating the existence of considerable strain diversity in a geographically restricted area. The two techniques were in excellent agreement; however, PFGE was more discriminatory for strain typing than was MLEE. Nine out of 19 (47·4%) culture-positive individuals were colonized by the same PFGE type of when retested after 6 weeks. For three individuals, the PFGE profiles of the second isolate differed from the first in only one or two DNA bands, while the other seven individuals were colonized with distinct PFGE types on each occasion. In two cases, strains with the same PFGE pattern were isolated from humans and dogs, suggesting that cross-species transmission of may occur naturally and that the infection can be zoonotic.


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