Are variable-number tandem repeats appropriate for genotyping Mycobacterium leprae?
Comparative genomics analysis of the Tamil Nadu strain of Mycobacterium leprae has uncovered several polymorphic sites with potential as epidemiological tools. In this study we compared the stability of two different markers of genomic biodiversity of M. leprae in several biopsy samples isolated from the same leprosy patient. The first type comprises five different variable-number tandem repeats (VNTR), while the second is composed of three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). Contrasting results were obtained, since no variation was seen in the SNP profiles of M. leprae from 42 patients from 7 different locations in Mali whereas the VNTR profiles varied considerably. Furthermore, since variation in the VNTR pattern was seen not only between different isolates of M. leprae but also between biopsy samples from the same patient, these VNTR may be too dynamic for use as epidemiological markers for leprosy.