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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31947. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031947. Epub 2012 Feb 29.

Genome-wide analysis of the emerging infection with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis in the Arabian camels (Camelus dromedarius).

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Department of Pathobiological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.


Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (M. ap) is the causative agent of paratuberculosis or Johne's disease (JD) in herbivores with potential involvement in cases of Crohn's disease in humans. JD is spread worldwide and is economically important for both beef and dairy industries. Generally, pathogenic ovine strains (M. ap-S) are mainly found in sheep while bovine strains (M. ap-C) infect other ruminants (e.g. cattle, goat, deer), as well as sheep. In an effort to characterize this emerging infection in dromedary/Arabian camels, we successfully cultured M. ap from several samples collected from infected camels suffering from chronic, intermittent diarrhea suggestive of JD. Gene-based typing of isolates indicated that all isolates belong to sheep lineage of strains of M. ap (M. ap-S), suggesting a putative transmission from infected sheep herds. Screening sheep and goat herds associated with camels identified the circulation of this type in sheep but not goats. The current genome-wide analysis recognizes these camel isolates as a sub-lineage of the sheep strain with a significant number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) between sheep and camel isolates (∼1000 SNPs). Such polymorphism could represent geographical differences among isolates or host adaptation of M. ap during camel infection. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to examine the genomic basis of this emerging infection in camels with implications on the evolution of this important pathogen. The sequenced genomes of M. ap isolates from camels will further assist our efforts to understand JD pathogenesis and the dynamic of disease transmission across animal species.

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