Although leprosy is efficiently treated by multidrug therapy, resistance to first-line (dapsone, rifampin) and to second-line drugs (fluoroquinolones) was described worldwide. Since Mycobacterium leprae is not growing in vitro, phenotypic susceptibility testing requires a one year experiment in the mouse model and this is rarely performed. Genetics on antibiotic resistance provide the basis for molecular tests able to detect for antibiotic resistance in leprosy.
A reverse hybridization DNA strip test was developed as the GenoType LepraeDR test. It includes DNA probes for the wild-type sequence of regions of rpoB, gyrA and folP genes and probes for the prevalent mutations involved in acquired resistance to rifampin, fluoroquinolones and dapsone, respectively. The performances of the GenoType LepraeDR test were evaluated by comparing its results on 120 M. leprae strains, previously studied for resistance by the reference drug in vivo susceptibility method in the mouse footpad and for mutations in the gene regions described above by PCR-sequencing. The results of the test were 100% concordant with those of PCR sequencing and the mouse footpad test for the resistant strains: 16 strains resistant to rifampin, 22 to dapsone and 4 to ofloxacin with mutations (numbering system of the M. leprae genome) in rpoB (10 S456L, 1 S456F, 1 S456M + L458V, 1 H451Y, 1 G432S + H451D, 1 T433I + D441Y and 1 Q438V), in folP1 (8 P55L, 3 P55R, 7 T53I, 3 T53A, 1 T53V) and gyrA (4 A91V), respectively. Concordance was 98.3% for the susceptible strains, two strains showing a mutation at the codon 447 that in fact was not conferring resistance as shown by the in vivo method.
The GenoType LepraeDR test is a commercially available test that accurately detects for antibiotic resistance in leprosy cases. The test is easy to perform and could be implemented in endemic countries.
Although leprosy is a curable disease using a combination of antibiotics for one year, the transmission is still active with 230,000 new cases in 2010. Drug resistance has been described and may prevent eradication of the disease. The infectious agent causing leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae, is not growing in vitro and antibiotic susceptibility testing is possible only in the mouse footpad model that requires a one year experiment. Consequently this testing is rarely done and antibiotic resistance rates in leprosy are unknown. This is the reason why we endeavored to set a new diagnosis test that detects for antibiotic resistance in M. leprae. The test is based on the method of a DNA strip test with a multiplex PCR followed by reverse hybridization. It was developed as an easy-to-use test and it will be available in endemic countries, where these kinds of strip tests are already used for detection of drug resistance in tuberculosis. The results of the new test, Genotype LepraeDR, performed on 120 M. leprae strains were concordant with those of the standard PCR sequencing and mouse footpad susceptibility testing.