The distribution of cryptic plasmids among 123 isolates of from a hospital ward during a prospective epidemiological study is reported. Two closely related stable plasmids (34 Kb and 36 Kb) were identified by restriction endonuclease digest analysis of plasmid DNA. One or other of these cryptic plasmids was carried by 40 isolates, the remainder were plasmid-free. A higher proportion of one cryptic plasmid (CPT-A) was found in environmental isolates than in isolates from patients. The serotype of all isolates of was 063 and they were epidemiologically related. Two of the eight patients colonised by carried all three possible variants: plasmid-free (PFI) strains or strains containing cryptic plasmid A (CPT-A) or cryptic plasmid B (CPT-B). The epidemiological significance of these results is discussed.


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