DNA of , obtained by a highly efficient nucleic acid extraction procedure, was used for standardisation of the amplification of an -specific repetitive sequence by use of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). With pure DNA, -specific amplification was obtained with as low as 100 ag (1 ag = 10 g) of target DNA, a quantity equal to about one-tenth of the bacterial genome. Optimal processing of different types of clinical samples such as biopsy material, blood and lymph fluid, from multibacillary leprosy patients, was studied. Simple freezing-boiling cycles in the presence of Triton X100, with some additional sample-specific modifications such as pre-treatment with NaOH to eliminate PCR inhibitors, was found to be sufficient to yield amplification of bacterial DNA in samples from paucibacillary patients. Clinical samples from 27 untreated leprosy patients, covering the various clinical forms of the disease, and with a bacterial index ranging from 5 + to 0, were collected and processed for PCR analysis. After hybridisation of the amplified material with a specific sequence, 25 of 27 patients analysed gave positive results for in at least one of the samples. The potential of PCR for the diagnosis of leprosy is discussed.


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