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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2010 Sep;74(3):363-77. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00007-10.

Microbe hunting.

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Center for Infection and Immunity, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Platforms for pathogen discovery have improved since the days of Koch and Pasteur; nonetheless, the challenges of proving causation are at least as daunting as they were in the late 1800 s. Although we will almost certainly continue to accumulate low-hanging fruit, where simple relationships will be found between the presence of a cultivatable agent and a disease, these successes will be increasingly infrequent. The future of the field rests instead in our ability to follow footprints of infectious agents that cannot be characterized using classical microbiological techniques and to develop the laboratory and computational infrastructure required to dissect complex host-microbe interactions. I have tried to refine the criteria used by Koch and successors to prove linkage to disease. These refinements are working constructs that will continue to evolve in light of new technologies, new models, and new insights. What will endure is the excitement of the chase. Happy hunting!

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