Diagnostic microbiology: Recent Advances

Diagnostic medical microbiology is concerned with the etiologic diagnosis of infection. Diagnostic microbiology encompasses the characterization of thousands of agents that cause or are associated with infectious diseases. The techniques used to characterize infectious agents vary greatly depending on the clinical syndrome and the type of agent being considered, be it virus, bacterium, fungus, or parasite. Because no single test will permit isolation or characterization of all potential pathogens, clinical information is much more important for diagnostic microbiology than it is for clinical chemistry or hematology. Many pathogenic microorganisms grow slowly, and days or even weeks may elapse before they are isolated and identified. Treatment cannot be deferred until this process is complete. After obtaining the proper specimens and informing the laboratory of the tentative clinical diagnosis, the clinician should begin treatment with drugs aimed at the organism thought to be responsible for the patient's illness. There are many diagnostic procedures to identify the causative organism ranging from the evergreen nucleic acid probing amplification tests, Ag-Ab tests, Cytometry tests to biosensors and biotection. From the past few years, NGS, digital PCR and proteomic based tests have emerged and are gaining successful results in diagnosis. 

Diagnostic microbiology focuses on applying microbiology to medical diagnosis. In addition to being involved in the identification of a disease-causing organism, diagnostic microbiology can also be a part of developing a treatment plan. Microbes such as bacteria, protozoans, and fungi play a role in many disease processes. Many of the techniques like microscopy, immunological tests, radiology, biomarker tests, ELISA, serology tests, vaccine vectors are the major diagnostic tests that are already in use. Many microbes have developed resistance to medications. Hence, it is necessary for the scientists to come up with smarter ways of diagnosing these microbes and their pathogenic mechanisms.

  • Nucleic acid probing and amplification tests
  • Rapid antigen and antibody detection tests
  • Cytometry-based antimicrobial resistance techniques
  • Breath tests for detection of pathogenic microbes
  • Centrifugal microfluidics
  • Bioanalytical sensors and Biodetection
  • Microarray analysis: Carbohydrates, proteins and DNA
  • Next generation sequencing
  • Application of Mass spectrometry techniques for target identification
  • Use of nanotechnology methods for microbial detection
  • Clinical utility of gene expression signatures
  • Circulating biomarker studies
  • Advances in qPCR and digital PCR techniques

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