A collection of 117 strains of Haemophilus influenzae, including 112 non-typable isolates recovered predominantly in the USA and France from genital, obstetric and neonatal sources, was characterized by the electrophoretic mobilities of 10 metabolic enzymes. Eighty-six distinctive multilocus chromosomal genotypes (electrophoretic types, ETs) were distinguished on the basis of allele profiles at the enzyme loci. Isolates of five allied biotype IV ETs were highly divergent from all other strains and hybridization of chromosomal DNA revealed that they undoubtedly represent a previously unrecognized species of Haemophilus. Isolates representing these ETs were recovered predominantly from obstetric infections and serious neonatal diseases and apparently possess specific tropism for the genital tract. Strains of these five ETs were present in samples from both the USA and France, but only in the USA did they cause bacteraemia and meningitis, an occurrence which probably reflects differences in patient management between the two countries. Although strains assigned to H. inlfuenzae (sensu stricto) were strongly polymorphic in multilocus enzyme genotype, 69% of isolates recovered from patients with meningitis and/or septicaemia were assigned to only two clone families, a result suggesting that some serologically non-typable strains of H. influenzae originating from the genital tract are unusually virulent.
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