New techniques have emerged for the detection of bacteria in blood, because the blood culture as gold standard is slow and insufficiently sensitive when the patient has previously received antibiotics or in the presence of fastidious organisms. DNA-based techniques, hybridisation probes, and PCR-based detection or protein-based detection by mass spectroscopy are aimed at rapid identification of bacteria and provide results within 2 h after the first signal of growth in conventional blood cultures. Also, detection of microorganisms directly in blood by pathogen-specific or broad-range PCR assays (eubacterial or panfungal) shows promising results. Interpretation is complex, however, because of detection of DNA rather than living pathogens, the risk of interfering contamination, the presence of background DNA in blood, and the lack of a gold standard. As these techniques are emerging, clinical value and cost-effectiveness have to be assessed. Nevertheless, molecular assays are expected eventually to replace the current conventional microbiological techniques for detection of bloodstream infections.