PCR primers corresponding to the adhesin genes of Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Mycoplasma genitalium were shown to detect the corresponding organisms specifically. Absence of cross-reaction with seven other mollicute species and six unrelated bacterial species commonly found in humans was demonstrated. Positive control primers directed against human mitochondrial DNA could be mixed with the Mycoplasma primers without loss of specificity or sensitivity. A detection level of 10 c.f.u. of either Mycoplasma species could be readily obtained, even in the presence of 10(4) human cells. The triplex PCR method developed is very simple and does not require hybridization or the use of radioisotopes and allows detection and differentiation of these mycoplasmas against the background of human DNA found in clinical specimens.