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Emerg Infect Dis. 2002 Feb;8(2):122-31.

Traditional and molecular techniques for the study of emerging bacterial diseases: one laboratory's perspective.

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Unité des Rickettsies, Faculté de Médecine de Marseille, France.


Identification of emerging bacterial pathogens generally results from a chain of events involving microscopy, serology, molecular tools, and culture. Because of the spectacular molecular techniques developed in the last decades, some authors think that these techniques will shortly supplant culture. The key steps that led to the discovery of emerging bacteria have been reviewed to determine the real contribution of each technique. Historically, microscopy has played a major role. Serology provided indirect evidence for causality. Isolation and culture were crucial, as all emerging bacteria have been grown on artificial media or cell lines or at least propagated in animals. With the use of broad-range polymerase chain reaction, some bacteria have been identified or detected in new clinical syndromes. Culture has irreplaceable advantages for studying emerging bacterial diseases, as it allows antigenic studies, antibiotic susceptibility testing, experimental models, and genetic studies to be carried out, and remains the ultimate goal of pathogen identification.

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