A novel Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis) specific insertion sequence has been identified by representational difference analysis and designated as ISMav2. ISMav2 has no similarity to known mycobacterial IS elements but shows more than 50% identity to a non-composite transposon of Streptomyces coelicolor at the DNA and protein level. ISMav2 is present in at least three copies on the genome as assessed by Southern blot analysis and its potential value as a diagnostic tool was confirmed by PCR analyses on 79 M. paratuberculosis field isolates, nine M. avium ssp. avium isolates, and the reference strains of nine other mycobacterial species.