Ribotyping with the restriction enzyme XbaI was used to study the dynamics of carriage of non-encapsulated Haemophilus influenzae (NCHi) in Aboriginal infants at risk of otitis media. Carriage rates of NCHi in the infants in the community were very high; the median age for detection was 50 days and colonization was virtually 100% by 120 days of age and persisted at a high level throughout the first year of life. Eighteen different ribotypes of NCHi were identified from 34 positive swabs taken from 3 infants over a period of 9 months. The same ribotypes were recovered for up to 3 months from consecutive swabs of individual infants, and 12 of 27 swabs (44.4%) yielded two ribotypes from four colonies typed. Statistical analysis suggested that most swabs would have been positive for two ribotypes if enough colonies had been typed although the second most frequent ribotype was detected on average in only 13% of strains. Early colonization and carriage of multiple ribotypes of NCHi may help to explain the chronicity of carriage and thus the persistence of otitis media in Aboriginal infants.
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