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Infect Genet Evol. 2010 Dec;10(8):1165-73. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2010.07.016. Epub 2010 Aug 6.

Molecular characteristics of "Mycobacterium canettii" the smooth Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacilli.

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Laboratoire de biologie clinique, HIA Percy, Clamart, France.


Since the first discovery of the smooth tubercle (SmTB) bacilli "Mycobacterium canettii" less than 60 isolates have been reported, all but one originating from a limited geographical location, the Horn of Africa. In spite of its rarity, the SmTB lineage deserves special attention. Previous investigations suggested that SmTB isolates represent an ancestral lineage of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) and that consequently they might provide essential clues on the origin and evolution of the MTBC. There is evidence that unlike the rest of the MTBC, SmTB strains recombine chromosomal sequences with a yet unknown Mycobacterium species. This behavior contributes to the much larger genetic heterogeneity observed in the SmTB isolates compared to the other members of the MTBC. We have collected 59 SmTB isolates of which 14 were newly recovered since previous reports, and performed extensive phenotypical and genotypical characterization. We take advantage of these investigations to review the current knowledge of "M. canettii". Their characteristics and the apparent lack of human to human transmission are consistent with the previously proposed existence of non-human sources of infection. SmTB strains show remarkably common features together with secondary and taxonomically minor genetic differences such as the presence or absence of the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspersed Palindromic Repeat) locus (usually called Direct Repeat or DR region) or number of IS sequences. Multiple Locus Variable number of tandem repeat Analysis (MLVA) and DR region analyses reveal one predominant clone, one minor clone and a number of more distantly related strains. This suggests that the two most frequent clones may represent successfully emerging lineages.

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