Overcoming RNA inhibition in the fluorescent polymerase chain reaction assay to enhance detection of bovine DNA in cattle feeds.

Mary Sawyer, Gabriel Rensen, Wayne Smith, Melanie Yee, Alice Wong, Bennie Osburn, James S Cullor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The practice of incorporating mammalian protein in ruminant feeds was banned in the United States in 1997 as a measure to avoid transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). A sensitive means of identifying the banned additives in feeds would be by detection of species-specific DNA using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). However, problems may arise in the PCR due to the presence of inhibitory substances. Using human DNA as an internal PCR control, inhibitory substances were evident in the DNA extraction products of cattle feeds. The results of heating experiments excluded enzymes as a cause of inhibition, and spectrophotometric calculations suggested the possibility of RNA contamination. Co-electrophoresis of untreated and RNAse digested extracts confirmed the presence of RNA in the undigested product. Seven cattle feeds were spiked with predetermined amounts of bovine meat and bone meal (BMBM). The DNA extracted products were treated with RNAse and the bovine specific mitochondrial DNA (B-mtDNA) was amplified by PCR. The minimum level of detection of B-mtDNA was influenced by RNAse treatment and feed composition. RNAse treatment decreased false-negative results overall by 75%. False-negative results were decreased 100% in the higher BMBM concentrations and 50% in the lower BMBM concentrations. Also, each cattle feed was spiked to attain a 2% wt/wt concentration with each swine, fish, sheep, or poultry product, or cattle dried blood. Amplification of B-mtDNA occurred only with the cattle dried blood and only in three feeds in which B-mtDNA was detected at the only level tested (2%). A commercial immunochromotographic assay (Neogen) detected the spiked BMBM in only one of the seven feeds and only at the upper concentration (1%).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-113
Number of pages9
JournalFoodborne Pathog Dis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Food Science


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