Phenotypic characterisation of Lactococcus and Enterococcus species remains unreliable as strains of both genera have been isolated which do not conform to the traditional criteria for separation of these genera. A bank of 131 isolates was phenotypically characterised by three methods: (a) traditional broth tests, (b) API Rapid ID 32 Strep and (c) BBL Crystal ID kits. Differences in genus designation between commercial kits were evident for 12 strains (9%), while 7 strains (5%) remained unidentified by either kit. Published 16S rRNA sequences were aligned and used to design genus-specific primers which, when used in separate PCR reactions, were capable of distinguishing all type strains of Lactococcus and Enterococcus. These primers did not react with known species of Streptococcus, Pediococcus, Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc or Tetragenococcus. Isolates which could not be identified by phenotype were assigned to either genus on the basis of the gene primers.
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