Mycobacterium kansasii, species or complex? Biomolecular and epidemiological insights

Enrico Tortoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mycobacterium kansasii is one of the best known nontuberculous mycobacteria and large awareness exists about its involvement in diseases both of immunocompetent and immunocompromised patients. Two phenotypic variants within this species, which differ for the virulence in guinea pig too, have been detected since 1962. It was however following recent progress in genetic studies that a large variability emerged. Major contributions to the disclosure of such findings came from the DNA probes hybridization, the nucleotide sequencing of 16 rDNA and internal transcribed spacer (ITS), and from the analyses of repetitive DNA sequences polymorphism. At present five subtypes of M. kansasii are recognized, defined by the ITS sequence and by the polymorphism revealed by different restriction enzyme technologies. Such variants differ from the epidemiological point of view too, with type i being isolated from humans, type ii both from humans and environment, and types iii, iv and v, from the environment only. A revision of the present taxonomic status of M. kansasii and its splitting into different species or subspecies seems nowadays necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-709
Number of pages5
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


  • Epidemiology
  • Genetics
  • Mycobacterium kansasii
  • Phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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