Author(s): Zhang Q, Kennon R, Koza MA, Hulten K, Clarridge JE rd
Abstract Share this page
Abstract In mid-1999, we noted multiple isolations at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) Houston Tex. of an unusual nonpigmented Mycobacterium species. Since, on the basis of 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, the strains were identical to the Mycobacterium szulgai type strain and since M. szulgai has been reported only rarely as a commensal or environmental isolate, we were concerned about laboratory contamination, nosocomial spread, or even the possibility that this could be a novel organism associated with disease. Our investigation found that from 1999 to 2000, 37 strains of M. szulgai were isolated from patients at the VAMC (the base rate for the previous 10 years had been <1 isolation per year). We compared the phenotypic properties and genetic relatedness of these 37 strains (31 of which were nonpigmented) as well as eight stock strains and the M. szulgai type strain. All strains were similar in cellular fatty acid patterns, growth rates, and biochemical characteristics. However, we found three genogroups by gene sequence analysis. Genogroup I comprised the M. szulgai type strain, all the tested nonpigmented strains (27 of the 31 strains were tested), two pigmented strains isolated in 1999 and 2000, and five pigmented stock strains. Genogroup II comprised five pigmented strains: three were isolated from 1999 to 2000 and two were stock strains. The single strain (isolated in 1996) in genogroup III was pigmented and was the only strain associated with disease. Whereas the randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) patterns of all nonpigmented strains were identical, indicating that they came from a common source (the pseudoepidemic strain), the RAPD patterns of the other strains were varied. In our investigation for a possible source, we found that there were no common reagents, specimen-processing or patient locations, or procedures linking the 31 pseudoepidemic strains. However, a nonpigmented M. szulgai strain with a gene sequence and RAPD pattern identical to those of the pseudoepidemic strain was recovered from a water storage tank serving the hospital. We concluded that the strains most likely originated from hospital water, which transiently inoculated our patients. Although no disease was associated with this cluster of isolates, the event was costly because identification was problematic and we could not easily discount the isolations, since most of the patients were immunocompromised and were candidates for opportunistic infection.
This article was published in J Clin Microbiol
and referenced in Journal of Analytical & Bioanalytical Techniques