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Multilocus-genotyping methods have shown that Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a geographically disseminated clone. However, highresolution methods such as pulse-field gel electrophoresis demonstrate significant genomic diversity among different isolates. To assess the genetic relationship of human and bovine isolates of E. coli O157:H7 in detail, we have developed an octamer-based genome-scanning methodology, which compares the distance between over-represented, strand-biased octamers that occur in the genome. Comparison of octamer-based genome-scanning products derived from >1 megabase of the genome demonstrated the existence of two distinct lineages of E. coli O157:H7 that are disseminated within the United States. Human and bovine isolates are nonrandomly distributed among the lineages, suggesting that one of these lineages may be less virulent for humans or may not be efficiently transmitted to humans from bovine sources. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis with lambdoid phage genomes indicates that phage-mediated events are associated with divergence of the lineages, thereby providing one explanation for the degree of diversity that is observed among E. coli O157:H7 by other molecular-fingerprinting methods.