Shigella sonnei is a significant cause of gastroenteritis in both developing and industrialized countries. Definition of the diversity and antimicrobial susceptibility of S. sonnei isolates may be helpful in the management of individual cases and outbreaks. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) were performed with 67 isolates of S. sonnei predominantly (n = 59) from three counties in the west of Ireland. Phage typing (n = 17), plasmid profiling (n = 28), and integron analysis (n = 24) were performed with subsets of strains. PFGE typing permitted recognition of two major clusters: PFGE type A (n = 53) and PFGE type B (n = 14). PFGE type A was associated with resistance to ampicillin, streptomycin, and sulfonamides (51 of 53 isolates), and those that were phage typed (n = 6) were phage type 3. PFGE type B was associated with resistance to streptomycin, sulfonamides, tetracycline, and trimethoprim (11 of 14 isolates) and phage type 6 (9 of 11 isolates). Fifteen different plasmid profiles were identified among the 28 isolates analyzed. A class 2 integron was present in all 14 PFGE type B isolates. One of these isolates also contained a class 1 integron and showed a unique variant of the PFGE type B pattern. Sequence analysis of the gene cassette structures contained within these integrons identified distinct open reading frames that encoded determinants of resistance to trimethoprim, streptomycin, and streptothricin. Our data demonstrate two predominant PFGE types among S. sonnei isolates circulating in this region. The limited diversity of the S. sonnei isolates in this region means that detection of isolates indistinguishable by PFGE and according to their antibiograms in two or more patients is not persuasive evidence of a common-source food- or waterborne outbreak. Indistinguishable plasmid profiles in addition to indistinguishable PFGE and antibiogram types may be more suggestive of an epidemiologically relevant link between cases.
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