There are currently more than 40 species of and the identification of most of these by standard methods is technically difficult. The aim of this study was to assess the suitability of a previously published PCR-based method of identifying spp. Intergenic 16S–23S rDNA spacer regions were amplified with primers complementary to conserved regions of the rRNA genes. Following electrophoretic separation of the products, data analyses were performed with the Taxotron® software package. Computer-assisted analysis (with an empirically derived error tolerance of 3%) could differentiate only 26 of the 43 strains (representing 43 species), with the remaining 17 species clustering into four groups (group I, comprising 10 species; group II, three species; group III, two species and group IV, two species). Analysis of well-characterised ‘non-type’ strains of some spp. (e.g., from type culture collections) resulted in patterns distinct from the corresponding type strain in most cases. Furthermore, recent isolates (identified by conventional methods) were identified by this PCR method to the presumed correct species (or species group) in only a minority of cases. Well characterised strains and recent isolates of showed heterogeneity within many species. This intra-species variation severely limits the usefulness of the method for the identification of isolates. However, this property may be useful for epidemiological typing within such species.


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