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J Clin Microbiol. 1996 Apr;34(4):933-8.

Assessment of genetic markers for species differentiation within the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex.

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  • 1Departamento de Patología Animal I (Sanidad Animal), Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.


It is important to correctly identify species within the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex because of the zoonotic implications of bovine tuberculosis, especially in developing countries. We assessed the use of various genetic markers for species-specific identification of mycobacteria from the M. tuberculosis complex. A multiplex PCR designed for detection of the mtp40 and IS1081 elements was optimized and evaluated in 339 mycobacterial strains from different animal and geographic origins. The host range of the IS6110, MPB70, and 16S rRNA genes was also studied by PCR in all the strains. Finally, the usefulness of the genetic markers was compared by an immunoperoxidase test for specific identification of Mycobacterium bovis strains. The mtp40 sequence was detected in 87 of the 91 strains of M. tuberculosis and in 9 of the 11 Mycobacterium africanum strains but not in any of the M. bovis or Mycobacterium microti strains, indicating that the mtp40 element was also found in all of the M. tuberculosis complex strains isolated from seals. This organism is considered to be a true seal pathogen, but its origin is essentially unknown. The finding of the mtp40 element in the strains from seals suggests a closer relationship of these strains with a human origin than to an animal origin. The mtp40 element was not found in any other mycobacterial species included in the study. As a result of this study, we suggest that biochemical tests or alternate genetic markers are still needed to differentiate M. tuberculosis from M. africanum when these species coexist as causative agents of tuberculosis. The immunoperoxidase test worked well for the identification of M. bovis strains. We also report, for the first time, PCR amplification of the repetitive element IS6110 in an isolate of Mycobacterium ulcerans and an isolate of Mycobacterium gilvum, which emphasizes the need for further investigation of the host range of this sequence.

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