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Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) was proposed in 1998 as a portable, universal, and definitive method for characterizing bacteria, using the human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis as an example. In addition to providing a standardized approach to data collection, by examining the nucleotide sequences of multiple loci encoding housekeeping genes, or fragments of them, MLST data are made freely available over the Internet to ensure that a uniform nomenclature is readily available to all those interested in categorizing bacteria. At the time of writing, over thirty MLST schemes have been published and made available on the Internet, mostly for pathogenic bacteria, although there are schemes for pathogenic fungi and some nonpathogenic bacteria. MLST data have been employed in epidemiological investigations of various scales and in studies of the population biology, pathogenicity, and evolution of bacteria. The increasing speed and reduced cost of nucleotide sequence determination, together with improved web-based databases and analysis tools, present the prospect of increasingly wide application of MLST.

Original publication




Journal article


Annu Rev Microbiol

Publication Date





561 - 588


Bacterial Typing Techniques, Databases as Topic, Evolution, Molecular, Health Policy, Humans, Neisseria meningitidis, Public Health, Sequence Analysis, DNA