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To develop a rapid real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method to detect Gluconobacter and Gluconacetobacter species in electrolyte replacement drinks.Samples of electrolyte replacement drinks were artificially contaminated with Gluconobacter species and then filtered to collect cells. DNA was extracted from the filters and analysed by real-time PCR on the ABI Prism 7000 system, using commercial detection kits for lactic and acetic acid bacteria. In addition, specific primers and Taqman® probe were designed and used for the detection of seven Gluconobacter and Gluconacetobacter species. All the assays tested demonstrated a linear range of quantification over four orders of magnitude, suggesting detection levels down to 1 CFU ml−1 in the original drink.A real-time PCR method was developed to detect low concentrations of Gluconobacter and Gluconacetobacter sp. in an electrolyte replacement drink.Real-time PCR methods allow a rapid, high throughput and automated procedure for the detection of food spoilage organisms. The real-time PCR assay described is as sensitive as the conventional method that involves pre-enrichment, enumeration on a selective agar (typically malt extract agar) and identification with a differential medium (typically Wallerstein nutrient agar). The real-time PCR assay also provides a more rapid rate of detection, with results in less than 24 h following enrichment for Gluconobacter and Gluconacetobacter species.