Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. 2000; 2(3):96-106
Today’s medicine takes advantage of the latest achievements in natural sciences and successfully employs new techniques to the diagnostics and treatment of diseases. Recently molecular-genetic approaches have been applied in the field of diagnostics of infectious diseases in addition to the conventional culture-based and serological methods. The widespread use of molecular methods not only in the research laboratories but also in clinical practice has been made possible with the introduction in the mid-80s and subsequent progress of the technology of in vitro specific DNA-amplification currently known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). During the last 15 years PCR has made the analysis of several human and microbial genes a routine practice. The key features of PCR namely the versatility, high specificity and sensitivity and relative ease of use have made it an indispensable tool for many diagnostic applications, including direct detection and identification of microbial pathogens; molecular typing and genetic characterisation of microorganisms; analysis of mutations contributing to the genetic diseases in humans; human DNA fingerprinting. The present paper reviews the very basic principles of PCR and its application in the field of clinical microbiology.