Characterization of 169 strains of Salmonella typhi of phage types C1, C4, D1 and D9 isolated in 1975–88 was carried out by rDNA gene restriction pattern analysis. Twenty-four isolates had been recovered during four large waterbone outbreaks in the last 20 years in Sicily; 145 strains, isolated from apparently sporadic cases of infection in Southern Italy in the same period of time, were also examined.
Application of rRNA–DNA hybridization technique after digestion of chromosomal DNA with Cla I showed the identity of patterns of the epidemic strains of phage types C1 and D1, confirming attribution of the outbreaks to single bacterial clones. Patterns of the two available strains of lysotype D9 were slightly different, whilst the 12 epidemic strains of phage type C4 could be assigned to two distinct patterns scarcely related to each other and, consequently, to two different clones. A considerable heterogeneity was detected among all apparently sporadic isolates of the four phage types under study.
This fingerprinting method appears a reliable tool to complement phage typing in characterizing isolates of S. typhi. In particular, epidemiological features of spread of this salmonella serovar in areas, where simultaneous circulation of indigenous and imported strains occurs, can be elucidated.