Repetitive element sequence-based PCR (rep-PCR) was used to generate DNA fingerprints for Listeria spp. Two primer sets (REP 1R-I REP 2-I and ERIC 1R ERIC 2) used in respectively REP- and ERIC-PCR revealed that bacteria of the genus Listeria possess short repetitive extragenic palindromic elements and enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus sequences. Specific band profiles obtained by ERIC-PCR enabled the identification of Listeria species. With both REP- and ERIC-PCR the L. monocytogenes serotypes 1/2a, 1/2b, 1/2c, 3b and 4b could be clearly distinguished from each other. Within the serotype 1/2a, REP-PCR showed a higher discriminative potential than ERIC-PCR and a comparable discriminative potential as RAPD combining 3-4 primers.