The Helmholtz Center for Infection Research scientists said the new technique is based on detecting short, repetitive DNA segments in the genome of bacteria, since every bacterial strain has such characteristic repeats.
"With this method we are able to identify bacterial strains as well as clarify their genetic relationships," said Manfred Hofle. "Furthermore, we can show how new pathogenic variants develop,"
The work is part of two European Union funded projects "Healthy Water" and "AQUA-chip." Hofle is coordinator of both projects that deal with various aspects of the microbiological safety of both, drinking water and sea water.
He said the new method makes it possible to characterize and distinguish hundreds of bacteria strains within a short time, he said.
"This is important for infectious diseases, in which it is necessary to know which strain is the causative agent," he said, adding the technique can also be used to investigate how pathogenic bacteria evolve in the environment.
The research was published in a recent issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.