The genetic diversity of 74 Australian field isolates of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae and 22 reference strains for serovars of E. rhusiopathiae or Erysipelothrix tonsillarum was examined by multilocus enzyme electrophoresis. Four serovar reference strains of E. tonsillarum (strains KS 20 A, Wittling, Lengyel-P, and Bano 107 for serovars 25, 3, 10, and 22, respectively) were genetically distinct from E. rhusiopathiae. However, the E. tonsillarum reference strain for serovar 14 (Iszap-4) and the reference strain for serovar 13 (Pecs-56), which has been said to represent a new genomic species, were found to cluster with typical isolates and reference strains of E. rhusiopathiae. Our reference strain for serovar 7 (Rotzunge) was also genetically typical of E. rhusiopathiae, thus indicating that these serotype reactivities cannot be relied upon as a means of identifying isolates as E. tonsillarum. Australian field isolates of E. rhusiopathiae were genetically diverse. Those recovered from sheep or birds were more diverse than those isolated from pigs, and isolates of serovar 1 were more diverse than those of serovar 2. The diversity found among isolates of the same serovar and the presence of isolates of different serovars in the same electrophoretic types (ETs) indicated that serotyping of E. rhusiopathiae was unreliable for use as an epidemiological tool. Some ETs contained isolates recovered from different animal species. ET 41 contained 32.2% of the field isolates and two reference strains, indicating that this clone of E. rhusiopathiae is both widespread and commonly associated with disease in various species of animals
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