Author(s): Scollard DM, Gillis TP, Williams DL
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Abstract The differentiation of leprosy from other cutaneous granulomatous diseases is routinely based on characteristic histopathologic features and the demonstration of Mycobacterium leprae by acid-fast staining. Increased ascertainment of other mycobacterial infections in the skin has made this task more difficult, but the distinction remains fundamental for the selection of appropriate treatment. Experience with formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues, frozen tissues, and tissue lysates referred for detection of M. leprae DNA by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay during the past 4 years was reviewed. This assay was done by using primers and probes previously developed in our laboratory to amplify a 360-base-pair fragment of the gene for an 18-kD protein of M. leprae. Among biopsy samples obtained from 37 patients, PCR results were positive for 10 of 20 samples diagnosed as leprosy by histopathologic criteria and in 0 of 17 not diagnosed as leprosy. The specificity of the assay was 100\% in this clinical referral material; sensitivity ranged from 50\% to 83\%. The PCR assay also identified M. leprae in one third of samples in which acid-fast organisms were seen and the histopathologic features were consistent with but not definitive of leprosy. In a nonendemic population, the sensitivity and specificity of PCR assay recommend its use primarily to identify M. leprae when acid-fast organisms are discernible but atypical clinical or histopathologic features obscure the diagnosis. The assay is not highly informative when acid-fast bacilli are not detectable by light microscopy.
This article was published in Am J Clin Pathol
and referenced in Molecular Biology: Open Access