Techniques using nucleic acid amplification have not had the same amount of impact on research and clinical diagnosis in the developing world as that observed in the West. This is unsurprising when the costs and infrastructure required to perform nucleic acid amplification are considered. Despite this, nucleic acid amplification is being increasingly used in both research and diagnosis in countries such as Zambia and Tanzania. Scientific research in the developing world is made possible through the support and development of the necessary laboratory infrastructure and the establishment of special transport for the reagents and samples. This has enabled world-leading country-relevant research to be performed by local scientists on subjects ranging from rapid diagnosis of infectious diseases to measuring the RNA gene expression in an immune response. Concomitantly, the challenge presented by the need for tests that are more appropriate for a resource-poor setting has led to a number of newer methodologies for nucleic acid detection, which can be tailored to be performed in the field without the need for training in molecular biology. As nucleic acid amplification techniques become both simpler and cheaper, their impact is likely to play an increasingly crucial role in research and diagnosis in the developing world.