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Volume 18, Number 10—October 2012

Characterization of Mycobacterium orygis

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To the Editor: In a recently published study, van Ingen et al. (1) described the molecular characterization and phylogenetic position of the oryx bacillus, a member of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, and proposed a long overdue name for the organism: Mycobacterium orygis. The authors described oryx bacillus as a separate taxon; the aim was for this description to be used in the future to identify the subspecies. Thus, we thought it pertinent to provide additional information that would be useful in speciating isolates of the oryx bacillus.

In a recent study, we genotyped an isolate of oryx bacillus obtained from an African buffalo in South Africa (2). This isolate was typed by using 16S rDNA, M. tuberculosis complex–specific multiplex-PCR, regions-of-difference analyses, gyrase B gene single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis, spoligotyping, and mycobacterial interspersed repetitive units–variable number tandem repeat typing. We showed that, in addition to the markers described by van Ingen et al. (1), regions of difference 701 and 702 were also intact in M. orygis.

In addition, van Ingen et al. identified the Rv204238 GGC mutation as a novel, useful genetic marker to identify M. orygis. However, such a marker already exists in the form of the very specific gyrBoryx G to A SNP at position 1113, which was described by Huard et al. (3). On its own, SNP detection in the gyrB gene allows differentiation of at least 6 of the 9 M. tuberculosis complex species from each other (M. canettii, M. tuberculosis, M. orygis, M. microti, M. caprae, and M. bovis) (3). Thus, the SNP at position 1113 is more useful than the Rv204238 mutation as a novel and distinct genetic marker to identify M. orygis.

Apart from this, we found that the sequence type (ST) 587 was not the only spoligotype specific for M. orygis. In our study, the variant type ST701 (annotated as M. africanum in the spolDB4 database) (4) is also an M. orygis–specific type and exactly matches that of a previous isolate of the oryx bacillus (SB0319) from the M. bovis spoligotype database (5). This spoligotype differs from ST587 by the presence of spacer 18, and the spoligotype was not found in the extensive sample set of van Ingen et al. (1).


Nicolaas C. Gey van PittiusComments to Author , Paul D. van Helden, and Robin M. Warren
Author affiliations: Stellenbosch University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Tygerberg, South Africa



  1. van Ingen  J, Rahim  Z, Mulder  A, Boeree  MJ, Simeone  R, Brosch  R, Characterization of Mycobacterium orygis as M. tuberculosis complex subspecies. Emerg Infect Dis. 2012;18:6535. DOIPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Gey van Pittius  NC, Perrett  KD, Michel  AL, Keet  DF, Hlokwe  T, Streicher  EM, Infection of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) by oryx bacillus, a rare member of the antelope clade of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. J Wildl Dis. In press.
  3. Huard  RC, Fabre  M, de Haas  P, Oliveira Lazzarini  LC, van Soolingen  D, Cousins  D, Novel genetic polymorphisms that further delineate the phylogeny of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. J Bacteriol. 2006;188:427187. DOIPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Brudey  K, Driscoll  JR, Rigouts  L, Prodinger  WM, Gori  A, Al-Hajoj  SA, Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex genetic diversity: mining the fourth international spoligotyping database (SpolDB4) for classification, population genetics and epidemiology. BMC Microbiol. 2006;6:23. DOIPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. M. bovis spoligotype database. 2008 [cited 2012 Jun 29].


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DOI: 10.3201/eid1810.120569

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Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Nicolaas C. Gey van Pittius, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research/MRC Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology/Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Stellenbosch University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, PO Box 19063, Tygerberg 7505, South Africa

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Page created: September 19, 2012
Page updated: September 19, 2012
Page reviewed: September 19, 2012
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.