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Methods Mol Biol. 2006;345:185-96.

Identification of diagnostic proteins in Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis by a whole genome analysis approach.

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Bacterial Diseases of Liverstock Research Unit, National Animal Disease Center, USDA-ARS, Ames, IA, USA.


Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis) is an economically significant veterinary pathogen that causes Johne's disease in cattle and sheep. There is a critical need for improved diagnostic tests to detect M. paratuberculosis infection in these animals. As with many other animal diseases, efforts need to be concentrated on the development of simple, rapid, noninvasive tests that can be performed by veterinarians or animal producers without expensive laboratory equipment. With the genome sequence of M. paratuberculosis now complete, we have taken a different strategy to identify novel proteins that are present uniquely in M. paratuberculosis and are antigenic in the context of infected cattle. Through a whole genome comparison of M. paratuberculosis with other sequenced mycobacterial genomes, we identified a collection of more than 90 genes that are present uniquely in M. paratuberculosis. This list has been further trimmed to 39 after amplification using polymerase chain reaction of unique genes using the genomic deoxyribonucleic acid template from several mycobacterial species and isolates. A selection of the remaining genes has been cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli and purified by affinity chromatography. Successfully purified proteins were analyzed using sera from rabbits immunized with M. paratuberculosis. Furthermore, to identify antigens in the context of disease, sera from cattle with Johne's disease as well as healthy control cattle are used in immunoassays. Using this methodology, we identified the first protein antigens specific to M. paratuberculosis.

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