Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has been widely applied to the detection of microorganisms. Overall sensitivity of PCR tests may be substantially reduced due to a large excess of nontarget DNA and inhibitory substances in the sample. We used a 5'-biotinylated 513-bp probe from the 3' region of the IS 900 element specific for Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (Mptb) to capture target Mptb DNA from crude sample DNA extracts. Captured target DNA was separated using streptavidin-coated magnetic particles (Dynal). Since the IS 900 element shares homology over this region with IS 902 in Mycobacterium avium subsp. silvaticum (Mavs), target DNA from this other pathogen was also retained. Highly specific PCR for the detection of either organism directed to the 5' regions of IS 900 or IS 902 was then performed directly on the solid phase. Hybridization capture of target DNA using sequence adjacent to the desired specific PCR site applied to Mptb increased overall sensitivity of detection in tissue and fecal extracts 10- to 100-fold. False positives due to contamination artifact were substantially excluded since the capture probe did not retain amplicons from the detection PCR. Development of the method to involve covalent 5' immobilization of capture probes on heat-resistant polymers should, in the future, provide a simple system with broad potential applications.