Use of the polymerase chain reaction to detect Mycobacterium leprae in urine

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Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has been applied to detect M. leprae in different clinical samples and urine seems to be attractive for this purpose. PCR was used to improve the sensitivity for diagnosing leprosy by amplifying a 151-bp PCR fragment of the M. leprae pra gene (PCR-Pra) in urine samples. Seventy-three leprosy patients (39 males and 34 females, 14 to 78 years old) were selected for leprosy diagnosis at a reference laboratory in Maringá, PR, Brazil. Of these, 36 were under anti-leprosy multidrug therapy with dapsone and rifampicin for tuberculoid (TT) and dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine for borderline (BB) and lepromatous (LL) forms. The control group contained 50 healthy individuals without any clinical history of leprosy. DNA isolated from leprosy patients' urine samples was successfully amplified by PCR-Pra in 46.6% (34/73) of the cases. The positivity of PCR-Pra for patients with the TT form was 75% for both patients under treatment and non-treated patients (P = 0.1306). In patients with the LL form, PCR-Pra positivity was 52 and 30% for patients under treatment and non-treated patients, respectively (P = 0.2386). PCR-Pra showed a statistically significant difference in detecting M. leprae between the TT and LL forms of leprosy in patients under treatment (P = 0.0033). Although the current study showed that the proposed PCR-Pra has some limitations in the detection of M. leprae, this method has the potential to be a useful tool for leprosy diagnosis mainly in TT leprosy where the AFB slit-skin smear is always negative.




Caleffi, K. R., Hirata, R. D. C., Hirata, M. H., Caleffi, E. R., Siqueira, V. L. D., & Cardoso, R. F. (2012). Use of the polymerase chain reaction to detect Mycobacterium leprae in urine. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 45(2), 153–157.

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