Leprosy, a chronic infectious disease afflicting between 10 and 15 million people, is caused by the obligate intracellular parasite Mycobacterium leprae1. Although M. leprae was the first identified bacterial pathogen of man2, basic biochemical, immunological, diagnostic and therapeutic investigations have been severely limited because it remains one of the few human pathogens that have not been cultured in vitro. An M. leprae recombinant DNA expression library was constructed to provide a source of genes encoding proteins relevant for such studies. Monoclonal antibodies directed against M. leprae specific antigens3-7 have been used to isolate the genes encoding the five most immunogenic protein antigens of the leprosy bacillus. We report here that M. leprae specific epitopes recognized by all of 13 monoclonal antibodies tested were produced by recombinant phage in Escherichia coli.
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