Use of molecular subtyping in surveillance for Salmonella enterica serotype typhimurium

N Engl J Med. 2001 Jan 18;344(3):189-95. doi: 10.1056/NEJM200101183440305.


Background: Because Salmonella enterica serotype typhimurium is the most common serotype isolated from persons with salmonellosis in the United States, it is difficult to detect unusual clusters or outbreaks. To determine whether molecular subtyping could be useful in public health surveillance for S. enterica serotype typhimurium, the Minnesota Department of Health initiated the routine use of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) of isolates.

Methods: Beginning in 1994, all S. enterica serotype typhimurium isolates submitted by clinical laboratories to the Department of Health were subtyped by PFGE. A standard questionnaire was used to interview patients about possible sources of infection.

Results: From 1994 through 1998, 998 cases of infection with S. enterica serotype typhimurium were reported to the Minnesota Department of Health (4.4 cases per 100,000 person-years). PFGE was performed on 958 of the isolates (96 percent), and 174 different patterns were identified. Sixteen outbreaks with a common source were identified, accounting for 154 cases. PFGE subtyping made it possible to confirm 10 outbreaks that involved small numbers of cases in institutional settings. Of six larger, community-based outbreaks, four would probably not have been recognized without PFGE subtyping. These four outbreaks accounted for 96 of the 154 culture-confirmed outbreak cases (62 percent). Fifty-six of 209 isolates tested for antimicrobial susceptibility (27 percent) were resistant to at least five antimicrobial agents. The multidrug-resistant isolates identified had unique PFGE patterns.

Conclusions: Routine molecular subtyping of S. enterica serotype typhimurium by PFGE can improve the detection of outbreaks and aid in the identification of multidrug-resistant strains. Combining routine molecular subtyping with a method of rapid communication among public health authorities can improve surveillance for S. enterica serotype typhimurium infections.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field*
  • Humans
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Salmonella Food Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Salmonella Food Poisoning / microbiology*
  • Salmonella Infections / epidemiology
  • Salmonella Infections / microbiology
  • Salmonella typhimurium / classification*
  • Salmonella typhimurium / genetics
  • Salmonella typhimurium / isolation & purification
  • Serotyping / methods*


  • DNA, Bacterial