Four hundred and thirty-four isolates of Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis were studied. They were grouped into five subsets defined by either the collection criteria or the parameter which formed the basis for subsequent analysis. Seventy-seven per cent harboured the serotype-specific plasmid (SSP). In 55% of the isolates this was the sole plasmid. Molecular variation in the SSP was detected in 17 (5%) of the isolates on the basis of restriction enzyme fragmentation pattern (REFP) analysis using Pst I and Sma I. The SSP variants were further characterized using additional restriction enzymes chosen to optimize the information content and analysed using a coefficient of similarity.
A variant SSP designated pOG690 showed greater resemblance to the SSP of Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium than Enteritidis; 89% and 68% respectively for Pst I and 79% and 55% respectively for Sma I. In respect of the Pst I data pOG690 shared at least 55 kb of DNA with the Typhimurium SSP and 37 kb with the SSP of Enteritidis. This variant was associated with poultry (duck, goose, chicken) and all isolates belonged to phage type 9b. Other variants were associated with phage types 4, 6, 6a, 9a, 11, 15 and 24. The epidemiological implications of these results are discussed.