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Molecular diagnosis of medical viruses.

The diagnosis of infectious diseases has been revolutionized by the development of molecular techniques, foremost with the applications of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The achievable high sensitivity and ease with which the method can be used to detect any known genetic sequence have led to its wide application in the life sciences. More recently, real-time PCR assays have provided additional major contributions, with the inclusion of an additional fluorescent probe detection system resulting in an increase in sensitivity over conventional PCR, the ability to confirm the amplification product and to quantitate the target concentration. Further, nucleotide sequence analysis of the amplification products has facilitated epidemiological studies of infectious disease outbreaks, and the monitoring of treatment outcomes for infections, in particular with viruses which mutate at high frequency. This review discusses the applications of qualitative and quantitative real-time PCR, nested PCR, multiplex PCR, nucleotide sequence analysis of amplified products and quality assurance with nucleic acid testing (NAT) in diagnostic laboratories.

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