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J Clin Microbiol. 1991 Nov;29(11):2578-86.

Occurrence and stability of insertion sequences in Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex strains: evaluation of an insertion sequence-dependent DNA polymorphism as a tool in the epidemiology of tuberculosis.

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  • 1Unit Molecular Microbiology, National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


In this study we established the usefulness of DNA fingerprinting for the epidemiology of tuberculosis on the basis of the DNA polymorphism generated by the insertion sequence (IS) IS986. Although clinical isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis displayed a remarkably high degree of restriction fragment length polymorphism, we showed that transposition of this IS element is an extremely rare event in M. tuberculosis complex strains grown either in vitro or in vivo for long periods of time. The M. tuberculosis and Mycobacterium africanum strains tested in this study contained 6 to 17 IS copies. In the Mycobacterium bovis strains, the copy numbers ranged between 1 and 5, and all 27 M. bovis BCG strains investigated invariably contained a single IS copy. This copy was located at a unique chromosomal position, reinforcing the idea that the frequency of IS transposition is very low in M. tuberculosis complex strains. Various microepidemics are described in which each microepidemic corresponds to a particular fingerprint type. The extent of similarity between Dutch and African strains was quantitatively assessed by computer-assisted analysis of DNA fingerprints. The results indicate that M. tuberculosis strains from regions in central Africa, where tuberculosis is highly prevalent, are generally more related to each other than isolates from the Netherlands, where the transmission rate is low and where the majority of the tuberculosis cases are presumed to be the result of reactivation of previously contracted M. tuberculosis infections.

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