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Genotyping of Mycobacterium leprae in humans and armadillos in a highly endemic area for leprosy in Brazil

J S Ferreira(1,2) E C Conceição(2,3) A N B Fontes(2) M Nobre(4) I Glauce(4) D McIntosh(1) P N Suffys(2)

1:Multiuser Molecular Biology Laboratory, Department of Animal Parasitology, Institute of Veterinary Medicine, Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Seropédica, Brazil; 2:Laboratory of Molecular Biology Applied to Mycobacteria, Oswaldo Cruz Institute, Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 3:Department of Science and Innovation - National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research, South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.; 4:Giselda Trigueiro Hospital, State Secretariat of Public Health, Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

Mossoró is a city in Rio Grande do Norte (RN) in Northeastern Brazil, hyperendemic for leprosy with the practice of hunting armadillos and consuming their meat. Previously, we demonstrated high anti-PGL-1 and PCR positivity for Mycobacterium leprae specific sequences in 20 (all investigated) six-banded armadillos (Euphractus sexcinctus) captured in a rural area close to Mossoró. Herein, we show data on VNTR-based genotyping on liver and spleen samples from these animals and assessed M. leprae genotypes from human samples in Mossoró. Although we could only obtain a complete 16 VNTR-based genotype from a single animal, seven isolates with at least 10 alleles were considered for cluster analysis. SNP typing was also limited but combined 27-5/12-5 analysis indicated SNP-type 4. All VNTRs from animal isolates showed the same copy number, grouping the seven animals into a single cluster, indicating high transmissibility. In order to compare the M. leprae genotypes from animals and humans, we obtained slit skin smear (SSS) samples from 54 leprosy patients of Mossoró. SNP-typing was performed for 32 patients showing SNP type-4 being dominant (72%) and in addition, 35 patients rendered genotypes with at least 10 amplified VNTRs that were considered for cluster analysis. Eight strains belonged to the largest cluster but none of the human-derived M. leprae genotypes clustered with those from animal isolates. Despite of our the study limitations such as sampling in slightly different ecological niches and somewhat low sensitivity of the genotyping, our data suggest absence of interspecies transmission

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