Human enteroviruses have traditionally been typed according to neutralization serotype. This procedure is limited by the difficulty in culturing some enteroviruses, the availability of antisera for serotyping, and the cost and technical complexity of serotyping procedures. Furthermore, the impact of information derived from enterovirus serotyping is generally perceived to be low. Enteroviruses are now increasingly being detected by PCR rather than by culture. Classical typing methods will therefore no longer be possible in most instances. An alternative means of enterovirus typing, employing PCR in conjunction with molecular genetic techniques such as nucleotide sequencing or nucleic acid hybridization, would complement molecular diagnosis, may overcome some of the problems associated with serotyping, and would provide additional information regarding the epidemiology and biological properties of enteroviruses. We argue the case for developing a molecular typing system, discuss the genetic basis of such a system, review the literature describing attempts to identify or classify enteroviruses by molecular methods, and suggest ways in which the goal of molecular typing may be realized
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