Ribotyping is a method of genetic fingerprinting. Genetic fingerprinting in general refers to differentiating bacteria beyond the species or subspecies level. It analyzes the DNA sequences that code for the RNA portion of ribosomes, the important protein-synthesizing parts of cells. These sequences in particular are analyzed because of their consistency among species.

Riboprinting requires several steps:

  1. Samples are taken from the infected people while they are in the hospital and cultured in the laboratory.
  2. After growing or culturing the bacteria in the sample, a colony of the likely pathogen is isolated. This colony is referred to as an "isolate."
  3. The DNA is purified and extracted. This DNA is then cut by restriction enzymes into many exact fragments.
  4. Once the DNA is divided, it is treated in one of two ways. The DNA is either "amplified" with primers specific for ribosomes and transferred onto a gel using PCR, or probed with ribosomal DNA probes if using Southern blotting.
  5. No matter which technique is used, banding patterns will appear on the gel or blotter, creating a riboprint. These banding patterns are what we use to compare the different subtypes in our database. An example of a riboprint can be seen at the start of this article.