SUMMARY. Diagnosis of avian mycobacteriosis, caused by Mycobacterium genavense or species belonging to the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), is problematic. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) offers rapid and sensitive detection of minute quantities of DNA, and conventional protocols have been used for evaluating avian specimens. The recent development of real-time PCR offers several advantages over conventional PCR.
In attempts to improve diagnosing avian mycobacteriosis, a real-time TaqMan® PCR assay was developed targeting the 65-kD heat shock protein gene of M. genavense and MAC spp. Nineteen reference isolates, 16 clinical isolates, and 32 avian tissue samples were used to evaluate the assay. When sufficient amplicons were produced, the species of mycobacteria was determined by standard sequencing of TaqMan® PCR products and compared with results from commercial mycobacteriology laboratories and/or standard sequencing of conventional PCR products.
The TaqMan® PCR detected DNA from reference isolates of M. genavense, MAC spp., and Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex spp. Of the clinical isolates, the TaqMan® PCR detected DNA from 10 of 12 Mycobacterium avium avium isolates and two of three Mycobacterium avium intracellulare isolates. For the tissue samples, the TaqMan® PCR amplified DNA in six of nine samples that were identified by sequencing of conventional PCR products and/or by commercial mycobacteriology laboratories as being MAC spp. positive and three of four samples that were positive for M. genavense. There was some disagreement between speciation results from the TaqMan® PCR and those from commercial mycobacteriology laboratories or conventional PCR or both. This disagreement was suspected to be because of relatively small numbers of base pairs in the TaqMan® PCR products. The TaqMan® PCR may provide a useful tool for evaluating clinical samples for DNA from mycobacteria species that most commonly infect birds; however, further refinement is needed in order to improve sensitivity and provide more accurate speciation.