SUMMARY: Nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA), an isothermal amplification technique for nucleic acids (NA), was investigated for the species-specific identification of mycobacteria. A set of primers was selected from a highly conserved region of the 16S rRNA sequence of mycobacteria sandwiching a variable sequence to perform amplification of mycobacterial RNA. Species-specific probes for the complex, and were hybridized in-solution with the amplified nucleic acids of 10 pathogenic mycobacteria and 11 closely related bacteria, as well as with human-derived NA in an enzyme-linked gel assay (ELGA). Each probe was shown to hybridize specifically to the amplified single-stranded RNA of the corresponding species. Thirty-two clinical isolates of strains from different parts of the world were correctly identified by NASBA using the probe. In combination with the ELGA, NASBA could identify mycobacteria rapidly, i.e. in less than 6 h. The relative simplicity and rapidity of this technique makes it an attractive tool for species-specific identification of mycobacteria.


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