David A. Relman

Publication Details

  • Emerging infections and newly-recognised pathogens NETHERLANDS JOURNAL OF MEDICINE Relman, D. A. 1997; 50 (5): 216-220


    Clinicians and microbiologists have for many years relied on growth and characterisation of micro-organisms in the laboratory as the major method for their detection and identification, but reliance upon microbial growth in the laboratory has probably significantly limited our ability to recognise important pathogenic micro-organisms. The traditional methods are often slow, non-specific and insensitive, and sometimes discriminate poorly among microbial species and strains. It is now known that the evolutionary ancestry and interrelationships of all living organisms can be reliably inferred from sequences in their genetic material. Highly conserved sequences characterise broad phylogenetic groups and variable sequences allow specific identification. Sequence-based methods combined with DNA amplification methods, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), have led to powerful molecular identification techniques such as consensus nucleic acid amplification and representational difference analysis. These methods allow one to detect and isolate informative gene sequences from occult microbial pathogens in human tissues. Sequence-based methods are often quicker, more sensitive and more specific than traditional methods not only in detecting known microbial pathogens, but also in identifying previously-uncharacterised micro-organisms. Widespread, organised use of these methods will reveal new emerging microbial pathogens, implicate microbes in the aetiology of poorly-understood chronic inflammatory diseases and significantly expand our understanding of microbial diversity.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1997XA07300006

    View details for PubMedID 9175403

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