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Emerg Infect Dis. 1996 Jul-Sep;2(3):159-67.

Molecular approaches to the identification of unculturable infectious agents.

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School of Public Health, Columbia University New York, New York 10032, USA.


New molecular biologic techniques, particularly representational difference analysis, consensus sequence-based polymerase chain reaction, and complementary DNA library screening, have led to the identification of several previously unculturable infectious agents. New agents have been found in tissues from patients with Kaposi's sarcoma, non-A, non-B hepatitis, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, bacillary angiomatosis, and Whipple's disease by using these techniques without direct culture. The new methods rely on identifying subgenomic fragments from the suspected agent. After a unique nucleic acid fragment belonging to an agent is isolated from diseased tissues, the fragment can be sequenced and used as a probe to identify additional infected tissues or obtain extended portions of the agent's genome. For agents that cannot be cultured by standard techniques, these approaches have proved invaluable for identification and characterization studies. Applying these techniques to other human diseases of suspected infectious etiology may rapidly elucidate novel candidate pathogens.

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