Analysis of data from multilocus enzyme electrophoresis has revealed that populations are non-clonal. Fifteen percent of 227 isolates of had an identical multilocus genotype (ET1) and were recovered world-wide over a 26 year period. The recovery of isolates of identical multilocus genotype from geographically and temporally unassociated hosts is a common criterion of a clonal population structure. However, in a recombining (non-clonal) population, isolates with the same multilocus genotype can arise by the random association of the most common alleles in the population. Analysis of the variation in two further enzymes, in the restriction patterns obtained from the glutamine synthetase gene, and in the DNA fragments obtained using an arbitrarily primed polymerase chain reaction, was used to show that members of ET1 were almost as variable as randomly selected isolates. Unlike the situation in a strongly clonal species, the 26 ET1 isolates examined were increasingly sub-divided to give 19 distinguishable groups as variation at further loci was examined, and 24 distinguishable groups when auxotypes were also considered. We conclude that, as expected of a non-clonal population, the most commonly encountered multilocus genotype does not define a clone.


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