Mycobacteria distenct from Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis isolated from the faeces of ruminants possess IS900-like sequences detectable IS900 polymerase chain reaction: implications for diagnosis

Mol Cell Probes. 1999 Dec;13(6):431-42. doi: 10.1006/mcpr.1999.0275.


PCR targeting the 5' end of IS 900 has been considered specific for identification of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis and is frequently applied to confirm the presence of this organism in the diagnosis of Johne's disease. IS 900 PCR has also been applied to studies of the aetiology of Crohn's disease. Mycobacterium spp. isolated from the faeces of 3 clinically normal animals in 2 Australian states appeared not to be M. paratuberculosis but were positive by IS 900 PCR. The isolates were characterized using mycobactin dependency, biochemical tests, IS 900 and 16 S rRNA sequencing and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) using IS 900 as probe. DNA sequencing confirmed that the isolates had between 71% and 79% homology with M. paratuberculosis in the region of IS 900 amplified, were most closely related to Mycobacterium scrofulaceum, and confirmed the usefulness of restriction enzyme analysis of amplified product to identify the false positive results. RFLP analysis with Bst Ell detected three to five copies of the IS 900 -like element in the isolates. These were located in molecular weight fragments that were clearly different to IS 900 in previously characterized strains of M. paratuberculosis. It is likely that these isolates are environmental mycobacteria. Southern blotting with an internal probe is unlikely to provide differentiation of M. paratuberculosis from these organisms. We recommend the adoption of restriction endonuclease analysis of IS 900 PCR product as a routine precaution to prevent the reporting of false positive IS 900 PCR results.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Camelids, New World
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cattle Diseases / genetics
  • Cattle Diseases / microbiology
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis / isolation & purification*
  • Mycobacterium scrofulaceum / genetics
  • Mycobacterium scrofulaceum / isolation & purification
  • Paratuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Paratuberculosis / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / veterinary*
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / isolation & purification
  • Restriction Mapping / veterinary
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S