The ESP II Culture System (ESP II), a broth-based culture system, has been modified and optimized for culturing Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis) in animal feces since 2000. Conventional and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays based on the IS900 sequence were performed as confirmatory tests for M. paratuberculosis in ESP II liquid culture medium. There were no differences between test results of conventional and real-time PCR assays. During the 5-week incubation period, if acid-fast bacilli (AFB) were detected in ESP culture-positive samples, IS900 PCR assays were performed to confirm whether those AFB were M. paratuberculosis. At the end of the 5-week incubation, AF staining was performed on all ESP II-negative cultures to screen any false-negative cultures; IS900 PCR assays were performed on AFB-positive cultures. During a period of 1 year, of a total of 18,499 ESP II cultures, 2,814 (15.2%) PCR confirmation assays were performed. Of those, 2,259 (80%) were both ESP and PCR positive; 104 (4%) were ESP positive and PCR negative; 423 (15%) were ESP negative and PCR positive; 28 (1%) were both ESP and PCR negative. The AF-staining step after the 5-week incubation produced 423 (15%) more PCR-positive cultures. Of a total of 2,814 AFB-positive cultures, 132 (5%) were not confirmed as M. paratuberculosis. Further studies are needed for speciation of non-M. paratuberculosis isolates.
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