A polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assay which amplifies repetitive DNA elements present within bacterial genomes was used to characterize and differentiate Leptospira
sp. Thirty-five strains from a reference culture collection and 18 clinical isolates which had been previously analyzed by cross agglutinin absorption test (CAAT) were evaluated by this technique. PCR results from analysis of the reference culture collection showed no bands corresponding to serogroups Australis, Autumnalis, Bataviae, Celledoni, Cynopteri, Djasiman, Panama, Pomona, Pyrogenes, and Tarassovi. However, the PCR method was able to clearly discriminate the serogroups Andamana, Ballum, Canicola, Grippotyphosa, Hebdomadis, Icterohaemorrhagiae, Javanica, Sejroe, Semaranga, and Shermani. Clinical isolates previously characterized by CAAT as serovar Copenhageni, serovar Castellonis, and as serovar Canicola were in agreement with PCR results. The clinical isolate previously characterized as serovar Pomona was not differentiated by PCR. Forty additional clinical isolates from patients with leptospirosis obtained in São Paulo, Brazil were also evaluated by this PCR method. Thirty-nine of these were determined to belong to serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae (97.5%) and one to serogroup Sejroe (2.5%). These results demonstrate that the PCR method described in this study has utility for rapid typing of Leptospira
sp. at the serogroup level and can be used in epidemiological survey.