Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options Skip directly to A-Z link Skip directly to A-Z link Skip directly to A-Z link
Volume 11, Number 8—August 2005

Mycobacterium neoaurum Contamination

On This Page
Article Metrics

Cite This Article

To the Editor: In reviewing "Rapidly Progressive Dementia due to Mycobacterium neoaurum Meningoencephalitis," by Heckman et al. (1), I found, contrary to the authors' conclusion, that M. neoaurum was more likely a contaminant than a cause. First, within the granulomatous brain lesions, the strongest evidence for the authors' conclusion, no acid-fast bacilli were isolated or identified on special stains; thus, the Kochs postulates were not satisfied. Rather, the lesions were likely rheumatoid nodules. Longstanding rheumatoid arthritis commonly causes granulomalike rheumatoid nodules. I did a PubMed search using "rheumatoid nodule in the brain" and 7 articles were found (2,3). A "rheumatoid endarteritis" search found 25 articles. Heckman et al. failed to exclude or discuss this possibility.

Second, M. neoaurum is a rare environmental mycobacterium that grows in ≤2 days on sheep blood agar and is not difficult to culture. As the authors stated, there have been 8 reports of this organism, 7 isolated from blood and 1 from urine. The blood isolates were associated with either central venous catheter or intravenous drug use. Thus, M. neoaurum is of low virulence and unlikely to cause spontaneous infection in tissue unless inoculated accidentally, perhaps. Third, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is exquisitely sensitive and prone to contamination. The problem is worse when bacterial DNA is amplified by using highly conserved primers. The PCR reagents, from the Taq polymerase (of bacterial origin) to water, contain sufficient, despite minute quantity, bacterial DNA to be amplified (4). Although direct sequencing of the amplicon is often blurry because of its low quantity and mixed content, when cloned, each amplicon may be ligated to the vector and proliferates and gets sequenced later.

Therefore, I believe the presence of M. neoaurum DNA, not the organism itself, represented contamination. Generally, drawing cause-disease conclusion based on PCR sequencing needs vigilance to satisfy the modified Koch postulates (5).


Xiang Y. Han*Comments to Author 

Author affiliation: *University of Texas, Houston, Texas, USA



  1. Heckman  GA, Hawkins  C, Morris  A, Burrows  LL, Bergeron  C. Rapidly progressive dementia due to Mycobacterium neoaurum meningoencephalitis. Emerg Infect Dis. 2004;10:9247.PubMed
  2. Karam  NE, Roger  L, Hankins  LL, Reveille  JD. Rheumatoid nodulosis of the meninges. J Rheumatol. 1994;21:19603.PubMed
  3. Kim  RC, Collins  GH. The neuropathology of rheumatoid disease. Hum Pathol. 1981;12:515. DOIPubMed
  4. Han  XY, Pham  AS, Tarrand  JJ, Sood  PK, Luthra  R. Rapid and accurate identification of mycobacteria by sequencing hypervariable regions of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene. Am J Clin Pathol. 2002;118:796801. DOIPubMed
  5. Fredericks  DN, Relman  DA. Sequence-based identification of microbial pathogens: a reconsideration of Koch's postulates. Clin Microbiol Rev. 1996;9:1833.PubMed


Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid1108.040861

Related Links


Table of Contents – Volume 11, Number 8—August 2005


Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

X.Y. Han, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Unit 84, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston 77030, Texas, USA; fax: 713-792-0936

George A. Heckman, Department of Medicine, Hamilton Health Sciences, Chedoke Campus and Freeport Health Centre, 3570 King Street East, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, N2C 2W1; fax: 519-894-8326

Send To

character(s) remaining.

Comment submitted successfully, thank you for your feedback.


Page created: April 23, 2012
Page updated: April 23, 2012
Page reviewed: April 23, 2012
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.