The incidence of mycobacterial infections was monitored in brown bears (Ursus arctos) in the National Park Low Tatras in the central European Carpathians in Slovakia. Tissue samples of 20 brown bears were examined microscopically and by culture for the presence of mycobacteria. Acid-fast rods were detected by Ziehl-Neelsen staining in a smear from the kidney of one brown bear, although the culture was negative for mycobacteria. Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, the causative agent of paratuberculosis in ruminants, was isolated from the intestinal mucosa of another two brown bears. The isolates were identified by polymerase chain reaction for the specific insertion sequence IS900. Using standardized IS900 restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis, the M. a. paratuberculosis isolates were classified as RFLP type B-C1, which also were detected in the infected cattle in surrounding area. This study describes the first isolation of M. a. paratuberculosis from a brown bear. Our results confirm that animal species other than ruminants can become infected with M. a. paratuberculosis and can act as potential vectors and/or reservoirs of the infection.
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