The discriminative capacity of ribotyping was initially assessed without knowledge of results obtained for the same isolates by use of more established typing methods. Forty-eight isolates of coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) from peritoneal fluids were studied. They were collected prospectively during 31 consecutive episodes of infection associated with peritoneal dialysis in 17 patients. DNA was digested by the restriction endonucleases RI or dIII and ribotyped by means of a biotinylated cDNA probe to 16S + 23S staphylococcal ribosomal RNA gene sequences. These methods in combination produced a total of 27 types which compared well with numbers of groups distinguished by other typing methods: limited biotype–antibiotic resistogram (ARB; 28), antibiotic resistogram alone (25), API-Staph (12), phage typing (9) and plasmid analysis (22). Ribotyping was highly reproducible and typed all isolates, including those that were not phage-typable (35) or did not contain plasmids (4). When used in a hierarchical manner with ARB, ribotyping results produced 13 additional types in comparison with the other three methods. When used hierarchically with all other typing systems, a further five types were found among isolates from two patients. However, some of the differences observed as a result of ribotyping could have been due to subtle changes produced by mutation, lysogenisation or gene transposition. Since the method requires additional time, expense and technical expertise, it is likely to be useful only when answers to specific epidemiological problems are required or as an initial screen before using other methods of genetic analysis.


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