Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version

February 1999


Published in JOURNAL OF CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGY, Feb. 1999, p. 304–309. Copyright © 1999, American Society for Microbiology. Used by permission.


Paratuberculosis (Johne’s disease) is a fatal disease of ruminants for which no effective treatment is available. Presently, no drugs against Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis), the causative agent of Johne’s disease, are approved for use in livestock. Additionally, M. paratuberculosis has been linked to a human chronic granulomatous ileitis (Crohn’s disease). To assist in the evaluation of antimicrobial agents with potential activity against M. paratuberculosis, we have developed a firefly luciferase-based assay for the determination of drug susceptibilities. The microorganism used was M. paratuberculosis K-10(pYUB180), a clinical isolate carrying a plasmid with the firefly luciferase gene. The MICs determined by the broth macrodilution method were as follows: amikacin, 2 μg/ml; Bay y 3118, 0.015 μg/ml; clarithromycin, 1.25 μg/ml; D-cycloserine, 25 μg/ml; ethambutol, 20 μg/ml; and rifabutin, 0.5 μg/ml. The strain was resistant to isoniazid and kanamycin. The results obtained by the luciferase assay were identical or fell within 1 doubling dilution. These results suggest that a combination of amikacin, clarithromycin, and rifabutin may be the most efficacious therapy for the treatment of M. paratuberculosis infections and that the use of fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics deserves further consideration. We demonstrate that the luciferase drug susceptibility assay is reliable for M. paratuberculosis and gives results within 7 days, whereas the broth macrodilution method requires 14 days.