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J Clin Microbiol. 2005 Sep;43(9):4551-7.

Use of bacteriophage MS2 as an internal control in viral reverse transcription-PCR assays.

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  • 1Institut für Laboratoriums- und Transfusionsmedizin, Herz- und Diabeteszentrum Nordrhein-Westfalen, Universitätsklinik der Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bad Oeynhausen, Germany.


Diagnostic systems based on reverse transcription (RT)-PCR are widely used for the detection of viral genomes in different human specimens. The application of internal controls (IC) to monitor each step of nucleic acid amplification is necessary to prevent false-negative results due to inhibition or human error. In this study, we designed various real-time RT-PCRs utilizing the coliphage MS2 replicase gene, which differ in detection format, amplicon size, and efficiency of amplification. These noncompetitive IC assays, using TaqMan, hybridization probe, or duplex scorpion probe techniques, were tested on the LightCycler and Rotorgene systems. In our approach, clinical specimens were spiked with the control virus to monitor the efficiency of extraction, reverse transcription, and amplification steps. The MS2 RT-PCR assays were applied for internal control when using a second target hepatitis C virus RNA in duplex PCR in blood donor screening. The 95% detection limit was calculated by probit analysis to 44.9 copies per PCR (range, 38.4 to 73.4). As demonstrated routinely, application of MS2 IC assays exhibits low variability and can be applied in various RT-PCR assays. MS2 phage lysates were obtained under standard laboratory conditions. The quantification of phage and template RNA was performed by plating assays to determine PFU or via real-time RT-PCR. High stability of the MS2 phage preparations stored at -20 degrees C, 4 degrees C, and room temperature was demonstrated.

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