1887

Abstract

Using molecular methods the authors have studied mycobacterial DNA taken from a 19th century victim of tuberculosis. This was the case from which Robert Koch first isolated and cultured the organism responsible for tuberculosis. The mycobacteria were preserved within five glass culture tubes as abundant bacterial colonies on slopes of a gelatinous culture medium of unknown composition. Originally presented by Koch to surgical laryngologist Walter Jobson Horne in London in 1901, the relic has, since 1983, been in the care of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Light and electron microscopy established the presence of acid-fast mycobacteria but showed that morphological preservation was generally poor. Eleven different genomic loci were successfully amplified by PCR. This series of experiments confirmed that the organisms were indeed and further showed that the original strain was in evolutionary terms similar to ‘modern’ isolates, having undergone the TB D1 deletion. Attempts to determine the genotypic group of the isolate were only partially successful, due in part to the degraded nature of the DNA and possibly also to a truncation in the gene, which formed part of the classification scheme. Spoligotyping resulted in amplification of DR spacers consistent with but with discrepancies between independent extracts, stressing the limitations of this typing method when applied to poorly preserved material.

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2003-11-01
2019-10-15
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