Polymerase chain reaction (PCR-) ribotyping was performed on 243 strains of serotype Enteritidis isolated during the years 1980-1994 from 58 foodborne outbreaks occurring in different regions of Italy. The majority (37) of the outbreaks were attributed to phage type (PT) 4, followed by PT1 (seven outbreaks); the latter was identified in 1993 in Italy in epidemic strains of Enteritidis. In eight cases more than one phage type was recognised from a single event. Nine PCR-ribotypes (PCR-RTs) were detected, with a strong prevalence of PCR-RTs 17 and e5 (23 and 21 outbreaks, respectively). In two instances two distinct PCR-RTs were identified within strains from a single outbreak. All but one of the PT1 outbreaks were caused by PCR-RT 17, whereas PT4 outbreaks could be subdivided into six subsets. Clustering of isolates was consistent with data obtained from epidemiological investigations. PCR-ribotyping proved to be an effective and reliable tool for subtyping isolates of Enteritidis belonging to the most frequent phage types. Nevertheless, in terms of laboratory expertise and lack of inter-laboratory standardisation, this typing technique is best suited for reference laboratories.


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