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Random amplification of polymorphic DNA (RAPD) is proving to be a useful technique in studying the epidemiology of micro-organisms. The technique can be troublesome and time consuming to establish due to the essentially empirical approach to optimization. By standardization of certain parameters and use of a commercially available PCR buffer optimization kit, a particularly promising primer was identified and RAPD conditions for a highly discriminatory and reproducible characterization of Salmonella isolates was achieved. In addition, a technique to obtain reproducible RAPD fingerprints of Salmonella isolates without the need to purify genomic DNA is described.