The past decade has seen tremendous developments in molecular diagnostic techniques. In particular, the development of PCR technology has enabled rapid and sensitive viral diagnostic tests to influence patient management. Molecular methods used directly on clinical material have an important role to play in the diagnosis and surveillance of influenza viruses. Molecular diagnostic tests that allow timely and accurate detection of influenza are already implemented in many laboratories. The combination of automated purification of nucleic acids with real-time PCR should enable even more rapid identification of viral pathogens such as influenza viruses in clinical material. The recent development of DNA microarrays to identify either multiple gene targets from a single pathogen, or multiple pathogens in a single sample has the capacity to transform influenza diagnosis. While molecular methods will not replace cell culture for the provision of virus isolates for antigenic characterisation, they remain invaluable in assisting our understanding of the epidemiology of influenza viruses.
Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.