Use of PCR analysis for detecting low levels of bacteria and mold contamination in pharmaceutical samples

J Microbiol Methods. 2000 Aug;41(3):259-65. doi: 10.1016/s0167-7012(00)00164-0.


PCR assays were developed and compared to standard methods for quality evaluation of pharmaceutical raw materials and finished products with low levels of microbial contamination. Samples were artificially contaminated with less than 10 CFU of Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Aspergillus niger. Bacterial DNA was extracted from each enrichment broth by mild lysis in Tris-EDTA-Tween 20 buffer containing proteinase K while mold DNA was extracted by boiling samples in Tris-EDTA-SDS buffer for 1 h. A 10-microl aliquot of extracted DNA was added to Ready-To-Go PCR beads and specific primers for E. coli, S. aureus, and P. aeruginosa. However, 50-microl aliquots of extracted mold DNA were used for amplification of specific A. niger DNA sequences. Standard methods required 6-8 days while PCR detection of all microorganisms was completed within 27 h. Low levels of microbial contamination were detected in all raw materials and products using PCR assays. Rapid quality evaluation of pharmaceutical samples resulted in optimization of product manufacturing, quality control, and release of finished products.

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus niger / genetics
  • Aspergillus niger / isolation & purification
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis*
  • DNA, Fungal / analysis*
  • Drug Contamination*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / isolation & purification
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Fungal