Studying the epidemiology of nosocomial infections requires identification of the culprits involved. This review examines and compares several modern typing methods used to identify and track the agents responsible for nosocomial infections. Each typing method attempts to identify unique attributes of a disease-producing organism differentiating it from background organisms. The usefulness of a particular typing system can be judged by accessing its discriminating powers, range of application, and reproducibility. In the past, epidemiologic markers were limited to phenotypic differences. Modern genetic typing methods are now available and allow more extensive and precise investigations. For strain-specific identification, genomic DNA restriction analysis (DNA fingerprinting) has several advantages over other typing schemes. Modern genetic typing methods are assisting in the epidemiologic investigation of a diverse array of nosocomial infections.
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