Johne's disease, a chronic inflammatory disease caused by infection with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis), is one of the most prevalent and costly diseases of dairy cattle worldwide. This ruminant pathogen is closely related to the ubiquitous animal and human pathogen Mycobacterium avium subspecies avium (M. avium), confounding the development of specific diagnostic reagents. Exacerbating this problem further is that most existing microbiological, serological, and immunologic assays for the identification of infected animals are inadequate. This is primarily because of the slow-growing nature of the organism, genetic intractability and the previous lack of information on M. paratuberculosis subspecies-specific genes or proteins that may enable the development of specific and sensitive assays. New detection tools are critically needed to definitively answer questions surrounding M. paratuberculosis as a foodborne pathogen as well as aid in determining if it is a contributing factor in Crohn's disease. Thus, the recent characterization of the complete genome sequence of M. paratuberculosis in our laboratories has been a major step forward in meeting this need. We have performed studies that utilize genomic information for the identification of specific DNA sequences and protein antigens in M. paratuberculosis. Based on a preliminary in silico comparison of the M. paratuberculosis genome sequence with that of M. avium, we have now identified at least 35 novel coding sequences that are unique to M. paratuberculosis. These in silico data were then confirmed and expanded by PCR amplification analysis with DNA from several species and isolates of mycobacteria. Finally, these unique sequences have been incorporated into an antigen discovery project that may allow reliable detection of the bacterium in antigen-based diagnostic tests. Application of these new tools in addressing foodborne related issues of M. paratuberculosis is discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Animal Science and Zoology