PCR-restriction enzyme pattern analysis of a 439 bp hsp65 gene segment identified 113 unique isolates among non-pigmented rapidly growing mycobacteria (RGM) from clinical and environmental sources that failed to match currently recognized species patterns. This group represented 40% of isolates recovered from bronchoscope contamination pseudo-outbreaks, 0% of disease-associated nosocomial outbreaks and 4% of routine clinical isolates of the Mycobacterium abscessus/Mycobacterium chelonae group submitted to the Mycobacteria/Nocardia laboratory for identification. It is grouped within the Mycobacterium fortuitum complex, with growth in less than 7 d, absence of pigmentation, positive 3-d arylsulfatase reaction and growth on MacConkey agar without crystal violet. It exhibited overlapping biochemical, antimicrobial susceptibility and HPLC characteristics of M. abscessus and M. chelonae. By 16S rRNA gene sequencing, these isolates comprised a homogeneous group with a unique hypervariable region A sequence and differed by 8 and 10 bp, respectively, from M. abscessus and M. chelonae. Surprisingly, this taxon contained two copies of the ribosomal operon, compared with single copies in the two related species. By DNA-DNA hybridization, this new group exhibited <30% homology with recognized RGM species. The name Mycobacterium immunogenum sp. nov. is proposed for this new taxon.


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