Methods of reducing background during amplification of small amounts of nucleic acids employ careful analysis of sources of low level contamination. Ultraviolet light can be used to reduce nucleic acid contaminants in reagents and equipment. "Primer-dimer" background can be reduced by judicious design of primers. We have shown clean signal-to-noise with as little as starting material as one single human cell (.about.6 picogram), E. coli cell (.about.5 femtogram) or Prochlorococcus cell (.about.3 femtogram).
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT INTERESTS
This invention was made with Government support under Grant Number DE-FG02-02ER63445 awarded by the Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in the invention.