Reference strains from 30 serovars representing seven species of and 48 recent isolates from human patients, dogs and rats, were characterised by polymerase chain reaction-restriction endonuclease analysis (PCR-REA), arbitrarily primed PCR (AP-PCR) and low stringency PCR (LS-PCR). PCR-REA analysis yielded seven groups among 29 serovars of pathogenic ; the non-pathogenic serovar was not amplified with the primer pairs studied. AP-PCR and LS-PCR fingerprinting resulted in 25 and 21 distinct profiles, respectively, among the 30 reference strains. The results of the three PCR-based techniques were highly concordant and were in general agreement with those from previous DNA studies, confirming the high level of polymorphism among species and serovars, and supported the concept of the serovar as the basic taxonomic unit of leptospiral classification. Results of the PCR-based typing methods for 11 randomised leptospiral strains, 36 clinical isolates from human patients and dogs and 12 survey isolates from trapped rats agreed with those from serological identification. With one exception, isolates of the same serovar gave identical profiles irrespective of the source. AP-PCR and LS-PCR are simple to perform and interpret, and appear to be useful for characterising isolates of spp. for diagnostic and epidemiological purposes.


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