Classification of bacterial strains based on DNA profiles

Richard A. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to specialist publication or newspaperArticle


The analysis of bacterial genomes for epidemiological purposes often results in the production of a banding profile of DNA fragments characteristic of the genome under investigation. These may be produced using various methods, many of which involve the cutting or amplification of DNA into defined and reproducible characteristic fragments. It is frequently of interest to enquire whether the bacterial isolates are naturally classifiable into distinct groups based on their DNA profiles. A major problem with this approach is whether classification or clustering of the data is even appropriate. It is always possible to classify such data but it does not follow that the strains they represent are ‘actually’ classifiable into well-defined separate parts. Hence, the act of classification does not in itself answer the question: do the strains consist of a number of different distinct groups or species or do they merge imperceptibly into one another because DNA profiles vary continuously? Nevertheless, we may still wish to classify the data for ‘convenience’ even though strains may vary continuously, and such a classification has been called a ‘dissection’. This Statnote discusses the use of classificatory methods in analyzing the DNA profiles from a sample of bacterial isolates.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Specialist publicationMicrobiologist
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • bacterial genomes
  • epidemiological purposes
  • banding profile
  • DNA fragments
  • fragments
  • DNA profiles
  • bacterial isolates


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