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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2001 Jun;67(6):2564-70.

Enhanced detection of surface-associated bacteria in indoor environments by quantitative PCR.

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  • 1Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-4009, USA.


Methods for detecting microorganisms on surfaces are needed to locate biocontamination sources and to relate surface and airborne concentrations. Research was conducted in an experimental room to evaluate surface sampling methods and quantitative PCR (QPCR) for enhanced detection of a target biocontaminant present on flooring materials. QPCR and culture analyses were used to quantitate Bacillus subtilis (Bacillus globigii) endospores on vinyl tile, commercial carpet, and new and soiled residential carpet with samples obtained by four surface sampling methods: a swab kit, a sponge swipe, a cotton swab, and a bulk method. The initial data showed that greater overall sensitivity was obtained with the QPCR than with culture analysis; however, the QPCR results for bulk samples from residential carpet were negative. The swab kit and the sponge swipe methods were then tested with two levels of background biological contamination consisting of Penicillium chrysogenum spores. The B. subtilis values obtained by the QPCR method were greater than those obtained by culture analysis. The differences between the QPCR and culture data were significant for the samples obtained with the swab kit for all flooring materials except soiled residential carpet and with the sponge swipe for commercial carpet. The QPCR data showed that there were no significant differences between the swab kit and sponge swipe sampling methods for any of the flooring materials. Inhibition of QPCR due solely to biological contamination of flooring materials was not evident. However, some degree of inhibition was observed with the soiled residential carpet, which may have been caused by the presence of abiotic contaminants, alone or in combination with biological contaminants. The results of this research demonstrate the ability of QPCR to enhance detection and enumeration of biocontaminants on surface materials and provide information concerning the comparability of currently available surface sampling methods.

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