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Vet Pathol. 2014 Mar;51(2):341-50. doi: 10.1177/0300985813511132.

Nonculture molecular techniques for diagnosis of bacterial disease in animals: a diagnostic laboratory perspective.

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Animal Health Laboratory, University of Guelph, Bldg 89, 419 Gordon St, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1. Email:


The past decade has seen remarkable technical advances in infectious disease diagnosis, and the pace of innovation is likely to continue. Many of these techniques are well suited to pathogen identification directly from pathologic or clinical samples, which is the focus of this review. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gene sequencing are now routinely performed on frozen or fixed tissues for diagnosis of bacterial infections of animals. These assays are most useful for pathogens that are difficult to culture or identify phenotypically, when propagation poses a biosafety hazard, or when suitable fresh tissue is not available. Multiplex PCR assays, DNA microarrays, in situ hybridization, massive parallel DNA sequencing, microbiome profiling, molecular typing of pathogens, identification of antimicrobial resistance genes, and mass spectrometry are additional emerging technologies for the diagnosis of bacterial infections from pathologic and clinical samples in animals. These technical advances come, however, with 2 caveats. First, in the age of molecular diagnosis, quality control has become more important than ever to identify and control for the presence of inhibitors, cross-contamination, inadequate templates from diagnostic specimens, and other causes of erroneous microbial identifications. Second, the attraction of these technologic advances can obscure the reality that medical diagnoses cannot be made on the basis of molecular testing alone but instead through integrated consideration of clinical, pathologic, and laboratory findings. Proper validation of the method is required. It is critical that veterinary diagnosticians understand not only the value but also the limitations of these technical advances for routine diagnosis of infectious disease.


bacterial infections; fluorescent in situ hybridization; mass spectrometry; molecular diagnostic techniques; quality control; real-time polymerase chain reaction

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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