The sensitivity and specificity of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method was studied with HeLa cells infected with serovar L2. Three different primer sets were studied; they were derived from the endogenous plasmid, the non-variable part of the MOMP gene and the 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene. The plasmid primers were the most sensitive in the PCR method and detected at least 0·1 infectious unit of in the presence of a superfluous amount of human DNA. Application of this plasmid PCR to 13 culture-positive cervical smears containing < 10-> 200 inclusion-forming units showed that it was the most sensitive of the three methods and detected in all samples. This correlates with the observation that the plasmid PCR method could detect in cervical smears of four symptomatic patients for up to 3 weeks after the start of treatment with doxycycline. In contrast, the MOMP gene-and rRNA gene-directed PCR, as well as culture and direct immunofluorescence, gave negative results within 1 week. Therefore, we conclude that the plasmid primers are the best candidates for use in the PCR method in screening programmes and clinical follow-up studies.


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