KLEBSIELLAS are often found in the human bowel and in a variety of environmental situations, such as soil, vegetation and water (Duncan and Razzell, 1972; Knittel, 1975). Over the last two decades klebsiellas have become important opportunistic pathogens in hospital patients (Price and Sleigh, 1970; Curie , 1978) and have been frequently associated with animal diseases such as bovine mastitis (Braman , 1973).

Despite the availability of good typing methods, such as capsular serotyp-ing and bacteriocine typing, the epidemiology of klebsiella infections is not fully understood, and little is known of the significance of environmentally derived strains in causing infections in hospital patients. Some previous investigations suggested that klebsiellas isolated from human and animal infections are phenotypically indistinguishable from environmental strains (Brown and Seidler, 1973; Dufour and Cabelli, 1976), but DNA-reassociation studies indicated that environmentally derived strains are genetically more diverse than strains of clinical origin (Seidler, Knittel and Brown, 1975). More recently, Naemura and Seidler (1978) showed that klebsiellas of clinical origin can be distinguished from environmentally derived strains by tests of the so-called “faecal coliform” (FC) response (that is, the production of acid and gas in lactose bile-salt broth at 44.5°C), growth in nutrient broth at 10°C, indole production and pectin liquefaction.

We have examined these four properties and some others in klebsiella strains isolated from human and animal infections, from human faeces, and from environmental sites within and outside hospital. We hoped in this way to clarify the significance of environmentally derived klebsiellas in human infection.


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