Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis is the causative agent of Johne's disease in ruminants. The current methods for detection of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis are slow and insensitive. We report the use of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based on IS900 to confirm growth of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis in primary bacterial cultures from bovine tissue and fecal samples. The use of PCR on single colonies reduced the time for analysis by 2 months compared with conventional methods. We also report the development of a nested PCR based on IS900 and the development of a positive internal control molecule, a so-called mimic. The system was tested with spiked tissue samples, and the sensitivity was estimated to 10 CFU per sample. Seventeen tissue samples, previously found M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis positive by microbiological culture, were analyzed by nested PCR and the efficiency of the PCR was checked by co-amplification of the mimic. Absence of the mimic amplicon indicated inhibition of the amplification. Ten of the samples were positive and five were negative, as judged from the presence or absence of the IS900 PCR product. Two negative samples could not be judged because of inhibition revealed by mimic molecules. It was concluded that the nested PCR, together with the mimic, could be a useful tool in screening tissue materials.