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A pathogenic strain of bacteria, Escherichia coli O157:H7 (enterohemorrhagic E. coli or EHEC), has been analyzed by laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) with nanosecond pulses and compared to three nonpathogenic E. coli strains: a laboratory strain of K-12 (AB), a derivative of the same strain termed HF4714, and an environmental strain, E. coli C (Nino C). A discriminant function analysis (DFA) was performed on the LIBS spectra obtained from live colonies of all four strains. Utilizing the emission intensity of 19 atomic and ionic transitions from trace inorganic elements, the DFA revealed significant differences between EHEC and the Nino C strain, suggesting the possibility of identifying and discriminating the pathogenic strain from commonly occurring environmental strains. EHEC strongly resembled the two K-12 strains, in particular, HF4714, making discrimination between these strains difficult. DFA was also used to analyze spectra from two of the nonpathogenic strains cultured in different media: on a trypticase soy (TS) agar plate and in a liquid TS broth. Strains cultured in different media were identified and effectively discriminated, being more similar than different strains cultured in identical media. All bacteria spectra were completely distinct from spectra obtained from the nutrient medium or ablation substrate alone. The ability to differentiate strains prepared and tested in different environments indicates that matrix effects and background contaminations do not necessarily preclude the use of LIBS to identify bacteria found in a variety of environments or grown under different conditions.