Quantitative differentiation of live cells in biosolids samples, without the use of culturing-based approaches, is highly critical from a public health risk perspective, as recent studies have shown significant regrowth and reactivation of indicator organisms. Persistence of DNA in the environment after cell death in the range of days to weeks limits the application of DNA-based approaches as a measure of live cell density. Using selective nucleic acid intercalating dyes like ethidium monoazide (EMA) and propidium monoazide (PMA) is one of the alternative approaches to detecting and quantifying viable cells by quantitative PCR. These compounds have the ability to penetrate only into dead cells with compromised membrane integrity and intercalate with DNA via their photoinducible azide groups and in turn inhibit DNA amplification during PCRs. PMA has been successfully used in different studies and microorganisms, but it has not been evaluated sufficiently for complex environmental samples such as biosolids. In this study, experiments were performed with Escherichia coli ATCC 25922 as the model organism and the uidA gene as the target sequence using real-time PCR via the absolute quantification method. Experiments with the known quantities of live and dead cell mixtures showed that PMA treatment inhibits PCR amplification from dead cells with over 99% efficiency. The results also indicated that PMA-modified quantitative PCR could be successfully applied to biosolids when the total suspended solids (TSS) concentration is at or below 2,000 mg . liter(-1).