PURPOSE: To determine whether sequence analysis of 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) can be used to detect bacterial pathogens in patients with postoperative endophthalmitis.METHODS: In 10 eyes of 10 patients, vitreous specimens were collected for culture and rDNA typing. Variable segments of each ribosomal DNA specimen were amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), sequenced, and aligned by BLAST, a computer alignment program, against sequences in GenBank at the National Institutes of Health.RESULTS: Specimens were available from five eyes with bacterial endophthalmitis diagnosed by Gram stain or culture. Amplified 16s rDNA sequences from the eyes of three patients were identical to microbiologic results. Polymerase chain reaction results were negative in two cases in which unusual organisms were detected. All five control specimens from patients with nonbacterial endophthalmitis or uveitis were PCR negative. Approximately 48 to 72 hours are required under ideal conditions for final species identification with this ribosomal typing technique.CONCLUSIONS: 16S rDNA typing shows potential as a relatively rapid technique for identifying bacteria in vitreous samples. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.