A protocol for culturing environmental strains of the Buruli ulcer agent, Mycobacterium ulcerans

Dezemon Zingue, Arup Panda, Michel Drancourt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contaminations and fastidiousness of M. ulcerans may have both hamper isolation of strains from environmental sources. We aimed to optimize decontamination and culture of environmental samples to circumvent both limitations. Three strains of M. ulcerans cultured onto Middlebrook 7H10 at 30 °C for 20 days yielded a significantly higher number of colonies in micro-aerophilic atmosphere compared to ambient atmosphere, 5% CO2 and anaerobic atmosphere. In a second step, we observed that M. ulcerans genome uniquely encoded chitinase, fucosidase and A-D-GlcNAc-diphosphoryl polyprenol A-3-L-rhamnosyl transferase giving M. ulcerans the potential to metabolize chitine, fucose and N-acetyl galactosamine (NAG), respectively. A significant growth-promoting effect of 0.2 mg/mL chitin (p < 0.05), 0.01 mg/mL N-acetyl galactosamine (p < 0.05), 0.01 mg/mL fucose (p < 0.05) was observed with M. ulcerans indicating that NAG alone or combined with fucose and chitin could complement Middlebrook 7H10. Finally, the protocol combining 1% chlorhexidine decontamination with micro-aerophilic incubation on Middlebrook 7H10 medium containing chitin (0.2%), NAG (0.01%) and fucose (0.01%) medium and auto-fluorescence detection of colonies allowed for the isolation of one mycolactone-encoding strain from Thryonomys swinderianus (aulacode) feces specimens collected near the Kossou Dam, Côte d'Ivoire. We propose that incubation of chlorhexidine-decontaminated environmental specimens on Middlebrook 7H10-enriched medium under micro-aerophilic atmosphere at 30 °C may be used for the tentative isolation of M. ulcerans strains from potential environmental sources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6778
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


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