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Techniques for minimizing the effects of PCR inhibitors in the chytridiomycosis assay


Correspondence: Tiffany A. Kosch, Fax: +1-252-328-4178; E-mail:


Chytridiomycosis is an amphibian disease of global conservation concern that is caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Since the discovery of Bd in 1998, several methods have been used for detection of Bd; among these polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from skin swabs is accepted as the best method due to its noninvasiveness, high sensitivity and ease of use. However, PCR is not without problems – to be successful, this technique is dependent upon the presence of nondegraded DNA template and reaction contents that are free from inhibitors. Here, we report on an investigation of several techniques aimed at improving the reliability of the Bd PCR assay by minimizing the effects of humic acid (HA), a potent PCR inhibitor. We compared the effectiveness of four DNA extraction kits (DNeasy, QIAamp DNA Stool, PowerLyzer Power Soil and PrepMan Ultra) and four PCR methods (Amplitaq Gold, bovine serum albumin, PowerClean DNA Clean-up and inhibitor resistant Taq Polymerase). The results of this and previous studies indicate that chytridiomycosis studies that use PCR methods for disease detection may be significantly underestimating the occurrence of Bd. Our results suggest that to minimize the inhibitory effects of HA, DNeasy should be used for sample DNA extraction and Amplitaq Gold with bovine serum albumin should be used for the Bd PCR assay. We also outline protocols tested, show the results of our methods comparisons and discuss the pros and cons of each method.