Rapid detection and species identification of mycobacteria in paraffin-embedded tissues by polymerase chain reaction

Diagn Mol Pathol. 1992 Sep;1(3):185-91.


The sensitivity and specificity of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in the detection of mycobacteria in paraffin-embedded tissues and in crude lysates of mycobacterial cultures were assessed. Sections of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues were deparaffinized and then subjected to a simple proteinase K and boiling lysis procedure. These preparations were used directly for PCR amplification of the 383 bp segment of the gene encoding the 65 kDa mycobacterial surface antigen. Crude lysates of mycobacteria were used as positive controls. The specificity of the PCR products was confirmed by Southern blot using a region-specific digoxigenin-labeled oligonucleotide probe and chemiluminescent detection. The 383 bp diagnostic fragment was visualized in 11 of 12 acid-fast bacilli (AFB) stain/culture-proven-positive blocks. Crude lysates of mycobacteria were detected to a sensitivity of approximately 80 organisms. Amplified fragments from paraffin-embedded tissues and mycobacterial cultures of M. tuberculosis, M. avium-intracellulare, and saprophytic mycobacteria were distinguished by digestion with Nar 1 restriction endonuclease. These results suggest that PCR amplification followed by restriction enzyme digestion of the PCR product is a rapid, specific, and highly sensitive technique for the detection and speciation of mycobacteria in paraffin-embedded tissues.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mycobacterium / classification
  • Mycobacterium / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium / isolation & purification*
  • Mycobacterium Infections / diagnosis
  • Mycobacterium Infections / microbiology
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / genetics
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / isolation & purification
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Species Specificity
  • Time Factors


  • DNA, Bacterial