Detection and identification of previously unrecognized microbial pathogens

Emerg Infect Dis. Jul-Sep 1998;4(3):382-9. doi: 10.3201/eid0403.980310.


Features of a number of important but poorly explained human clinical syndromes strongly indicate a microbial etiology. In these syndromes, the failure of cultivation-dependent microbial detection methods reveals our ignorance of microbial growth requirements. Sequence-based molecular methods, however, offer alternative approaches for microbial identification directly from host specimens found in the setting of unexplained acute illnesses, chronic inflammatory disease, and from anatomic sites that contain commensal microflora. The rapid expansion of genome sequence databases and advances in biotechnology present opportunities and challenges: identification of consensus sequences from which reliable, specific phylogenetic information can be inferred for all taxonomic groups of pathogens, broad-range pathogen identification on the basis of virulence-associated gene families, and use of host gene expression response profiles as specific signatures of microbial infection.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases / diagnosis
  • Communicable Diseases / microbiology*
  • Communicable Diseases / transmission
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Disease Vectors
  • Genetics, Microbial*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Microbiological Techniques*