Evaluation of quantitative polymerase chain reaction assays targeting Mycobacterium avium, M. intracellulare, and M. avium subspecies paratuberculosis in drinking water biofilms

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Mycobacterium avium (MA), Mycobacterium intracellulare (MI), and Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) are difficult to culture due to their slow growing nature. A quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) method for the rapid detection of MA, MI, and MAP can be used to provide data supporting drinking water biofilms as potential sources of human exposure. The aim of this study was to characterize two qPCR assays targeting partial 16S rRNA gene sequences of MA and MI and use these assays, along with two previously reported MAP qPCR assays (IS900 and Target 251), to investigate Mycobacterium occurrence in kitchen faucet biofilms. MA and MI qPCR assays demonstrated 100% specificity and sensitivity when evaluated against 18 non-MA complex, 76 MA, and 17 MI isolates. Both assays detected approximately 1,000 cells from a diluted cell stock inoculated on a sampling swab 100% of the time. DNA analysis by qPCR indicated that 35.3, 56.9 and 11.8% of the 51 kitchen faucet biofilm samples collected contained MA, MI, and MAP, respectively. This study introduces novel qPCR assays designed to specifically detect MA and MI in biofilm. Results support the use of qPCR as an alternative to culture for detection and enumeration of MA, MI, and MAP in microbiologically complex samples.

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