Summary: Genetic diversity among 60 British isolates representing the four recognized capsular serotypes, T3, T4, T10 and T15, and recovered predominantly from sheep suffering from systemic pasteurellosis, was estimated by analysing electrophoretically demonstrable allelic variation at structural genes encoding 19 enzymes. Thirteen of the loci were polymorphic and 20 distinctive multilocus genotypes (electrophoretic types, ETs) were identified. The population structure of is clonal and its genetic diversity is limited compared with most other pathogenic bacteria. ETs represent clones, and isolates of the same ET were generally associated with the same combination of serotype, LPS type and outer-membrane protein (OMP) type. The genetic diversity of isolates within each of the capsular serotypes varied. Serotype T10 was represented by 18 isolates in two related ETs and exhibited little diversity. By contrast, serotype T15 was represented by 18 isolates in nine ETs and was almost as diverse as the species as a whole. Serotype T4 was represented by 18 isolates in five ETs and was less diverse than serotype T15. Although serotype T3 was more diverse than serotype T15 it was represented by only three isolates. With the exception of the T10 isolates and those recovered from healthy sheep, 35 disease isolates belonged to 16 ETs, each of which was represented by only one to four isolates. The fact that a high proportion of disease is caused by a relatively large number of clones suggests that is essentially an opportunistic pathogen. In addition to having the same capsular structure, isolates belonging to the two T10 clones were characterized by possession of similar, if not identical, O-antigens (LPS types 2 and 4). The occurrence of 18 serotype T10 isolates in only two ETs suggests that the T10 capsule and type 2/4 O-antigen confer enhanced virulence on members of these two clones. Multilocus enzyme electrophoresis (MLEE) had greater resolving power than did capsule/LPS/OMP analysis, being able to distinguish 20 rather than 14 sub-divisions within . The technique demonstrated genetic identity or non-identity among strains of the same or different serotypes from different geographic localities within the UK and was a useful epidemiological tool.


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