Molecular Diagnosis of Diarrhea: Current Status and Future Potential
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- Platts-Mills, J.A., Operario, D.J. & Houpt, E.R. Curr Infect Dis Rep (2012) 14: 41. doi:10.1007/s11908-011-0223-7
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Determining the microbiologic etiology of enteric infection remains an elusive goal. Conventional approaches, including culture, microscopy, and antigen-based tests have significant limitations such as limit of detection and the need for multiple procedures. Molecular diagnostics, especially PCR based tests, are rapidly changing research and practice in infectious diseases. Diarrheal disease, with its broad range of potential infectious etiologies, is well suited for multiplex molecular testing. This review highlights examples of currently employed molecular tests, as well as ways in which these tests can be applied in the future. The absence of a gold standard for the microbiologic cause of diarrhea means that the clinical significance of detected organisms may not always be clear. Conventional wisdom is that there should be one main pathogen causing diarrhea, however our thinking is challenged by increased detection of mixed infections. Thus, the successful incorporation of molecular diagnostics for diarrheal disease into practice will require both a careful understanding of the technical aspects and research to define their clinical utility.