Brucellosis is a world-wide re-emerging zoonosis and the most frequent laboratory-acquired bacterial infection, causing severe disease in humans with unspecific clinical signs affecting numerous organs. Contact with infected animals, ingestion of contaminated animal products and handling of Brucella isolates in laboratories are risk factors. Various other febrile illnesses, e.g. malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and tularemia may present with the same symptoms. Therefore, clinical diagnosis is difficult to establish but effective therapy requires an early diagnosis. Vaccines for humans are still not commercially available. Blood culturing of Brucella is time-consuming and not reliable. Thus diagnosis is usually based on indirect serological tests, i.e. serum agglutination test, complement fixation or the Coombs test. However, these 'conventional' serological tests lack sensitivity and specificity. Hence, a combination of various tests is mandatory for a definite diagnosis. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays can be used for screening and confirmation of brucellosis in one step. Molecular techniques like the polymerase chain reaction and restriction fragment length polymorphism are needed to differentiate species and strains within the genus Brucella. This review will summarize advantages and disadvantages of the techniques used in clinical laboratories for direct detection and identification of Brucella spp.