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Specific detection of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis DNA associated with granulomatous tissue in Crohn's disease.
  1. H M Fidler,
  2. W Thurrell,
  3. N M Johnson,
  4. G A Rook,
  5. J J McFadden
  1. Department of Medicine, University College London Medical School, Guildford.


    The role of mycobacteria, specifically Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, in Crohn's disease has aroused considerable controversy for many years. Using the ultra sensitive polymerase chain reaction some studies have reported detection of M paratuberculosis DNA in as many as 65% of Crohn's disease patients but also in patients without disease. Other studies have been negative for both groups. We therefore designed a double blind control trial to investigate the presence of mycobacterial DNA in age, sex, and tissue matched paraffin wax embedded tissues from 31 Crohn's disease tissues, 20 diseased gut control tissues, and 10 ulcerative colitis tissues. The specimens were coded and analysed blind with three separate polymerase chain reactions (PCR) based on DNA sequences specific for M paratuberculosis (IS900), M avium (RFLP type A/1) (IS901), and the Mycobacterium genus (65 kDa gene, TB600). The number of granulomata and presence of acid fast bacilli in each Crohn's disease tissue was also investigated. The sensitivity of the system was determined using similarly prepared gut tissue from an animal infected with M paratuberculosis. Four of 31 Crohn's disease tissues and none of the 30 control and ulcerative colitis derived tissues amplified M paratuberculosis DNA. Crohn's disease tissues containing granulomata were significantly more likely to amplify M paratuberculosis specific DNA on PCR than the non-Crohn's disease tissues (p = 0.02). All the positive Crohn's disease tissues contained granulomata, and none contained acid fast bacilli. Equivalent numbers of Crohn's and non-Crohn's disease tissues amplified the region of the 65 kD gene on PCR for non-specific mycobacterial DNA (11/31 and 9/30 respectively). No sections produced an amplified product with the IS901 PCR. These results suggest that few Crohn's disease gut biopsy sections contain M paratuberculosis DNA in association with granulomata. The absence of such DNA in any control and ulcerative colitic tissue strengthens the case for it having a specific association, which may be pathogenic, with Crohn's disease in this minority of patients.

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