The polymerase chain reaction-single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) technique was evaluated for species identification among mycobacteria by analysis of the gene. Nine clinical isolates of with different fingerprint patterns all gave the same distinct SSCP banding pattern and could be distinguished from other mycobacteria, such as In contrast, considerable strain-specific gene variations were observed amongst 42 clinical isolates of and 13 other atypical mycobacterial strains. Only 62% of the isolates hybridised to an -specific probe and only 14% could be identified correctly as by both probe and restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. This finding was supported by direct sequence analysis. Variations were also observed in and isolates. Computerised analysis of samples broadly identified three clusters. Results suggest that although the SSCP procedure may be useful for distinguishing from other mycobacteria, this technique applied to the gene may not be suitable for strain identification. The results stress the importance of testing a large collection of clinical isolates before new molecular procedures are introduced into routine laboratories.


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