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J Microbiol Methods. 2011 Mar;84(3):413-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2011.01.019. Epub 2011 Jan 21.

Evaluation of a rapid and inexpensive liquid culture system for the detection of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in bovine faeces.

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Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, Sezione di Verona, Via San Giacomo 5, 37135 Verona, Italy.


Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is the etiologic agent of paratuberculosis, a chronic granulomatous enteric disease of ruminants. MAP detection by faecal culture provides the definitive diagnosis of the infection. Automated liquid systems for MAP culture are more sensitive and rapid than culture on solid media, but they are expensive and require specialised equipment. In this study, a non-automated culture method using a modified Middlebrook 7H9 liquid medium (7H9+) was compared with Herrold's solid medium (HEYM) and direct real-time PCR on dairy cattle faeces. MAP growth in 7H9+ was monitored weekly by real-time PCR until the 12th week post-inoculation. The analytical sensitivity of the three methods was evaluated using faecal samples from a healthy cow spiked with ten-fold dilutions of MAP organisms (10(4)-10(-1)) and naturally MAP-infected faeces serially diluted 1 to 10 in negative faecal samples. The limits of detection of the solid culture and direct real-time PCR were 10(2) and 10(3)MAP/g, respectively. In comparison, the 7H9+ culture revealed as few as 1MAP/g. A marked reduction in time to detection of the pathogen, compared with HEYM culture, was obtained. In addition, the three methods were applied to environmental faecal samples collected from a high- and a low-prevalence herd. The culture in 7H9+ showed to be the most sensitive test in the low-prevalence herd and provided faster results than HEYM. In the high-prevalence herd the three methods showed the same sensitivity and the real-time PCR had the shortest turnaround time. In conclusion, the use of 7H9+ for MAP-detection from cattle faeces maximizes diagnostic sensitivity and reduces turnaround time and, therefore, could replace culture in solid medium. Hence, we propose a two-step protocol for the assessment of MAP faecal excretion based on: 1) direct real-time PCR on all samples; and 2) inoculation of negative samples into 7H9+ and analysis after 3 and, if necessary, 6weeks by real-time PCR.

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