A mAb previously thought to be specific for Mycobacterium leprae has been found to cross-react with a cultivable mycobacterium, Mycobacterium habana TMC5135. The epitope is present on a protein of identical molecular mass (18 kDa) in both species. When M. habana is subjected to heat shock, expression of the protein is significantly increased, whereas other forms of environmental stress do not increase its expression. Since immunization of mice with M. habana results in protection against infection with M. leprae, the possibility of using a molecular genetic approach to investigate the role of this protein in protective immunity is raised.

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