Leptospira is the causative genus of the disease, leptospirosis. Species identification of pathogenic Leptospira in the past was generally performed by either DNA-DNA hybridisation or 16s rRNA gene sequencing. Both methods have inherent disadvantages such as the need for radio-labelled isotopes or significant homology between species. A conventional and real-time PCR amplification and sequencing method was developed for an alternate gene target: DNA gyrase subunit B (gyrB). Phylogenetic comparisons were undertaken between pathogenic Leptospira 16srRNA and gyrB genes using clustering and minimum evolution analysis. In addition 50 unidentified Leptospira isolates were characterised by gyrB sequencing and compared with conventional 16s rRNA sequencing.
A conventional and real-time PCR methodology was developed and optimised for the amplification of the gyrB from pathogenic Leptospira species. Non pathogenic and opportunistic Leptospira species such as L. fainei and L. broomi were not amplified. The gyrB gene shows greater nucleotide divergence (3.5% to 16.1%) than the 16s rRNA gene (0.1% to 1.4%). Minimum evolution analysis reveals that the gyrB has a different evolution topology for L. kirschneri and L. interrogans. When the two genes were compared for the identification of the 50 unknown isolates there was 100% agreement in the results.
This research has successfully developed a methodology for the identification of pathogenic Leptospira using an alternate gene to 16s rRNA. The gyrB encoding gene shows higher nucleotide/evolutionary divergence allowing for superior identification and also the potential for the development of DNA probe based identification.