Thirty one cultures were established in MG3 medium from the intestinal tissues of 29 patients, including 18 with Crohn's disease, five with ulcerative colitis, and six non-inflammatory bowel disease controls. All cultures grew either acid fast bacilli or uncharacterized spheroplasts. Pellets from these cultures were coded and assayed blind for M paratuberculosis and M avium subsp silvaticum using IS900- and IS902-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) assays, respectively. IS900 and IS902 are multicopy DNA insertion elements specific for these two organisms. Six Crohn's disease cultures and a single non-inflammatory bowel disease control were positive for M paratuberculosis. A further six cultures were positive for M avium subsp silvaticum, of which two each were from Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and non-inflammatory bowel disease controls. The intensity of the IS900-PCR signals indicated very low numbers of M paratuberculosis organisms and bore no relation to visible spheroplastic or bacillary mycobacterial growth. The results suggest that M paratuberculosis isolated from man exists in a form which hardly replicates if at all when cultured in MG3 medium in vitro, and are consistent with the involvement of this known animal enteric pathogen in a proportion of chronic enteritis in man.
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