Diagnostics and laboratory role in outbreaks

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Purpose of reviewThe review describes the investigative benefits of traditional and novel molecular epidemiology techniques, while acknowledging the limitations faced by clinical laboratories seeking to implement these methods.Recent findingsPulse-field gel electrophoresis and other traditional techniques remain powerful tools in outbreak investigations and continue to be used by multiple groups. Newer techniques such as matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass-spectrometry and whole genome sequencing show great promise. However, there is a lack of standardization regarding definitions for genetic relatedness, nor are there established criteria for accuracy and reproducibility. There are also challenges regarding availability of trained bioinformatics staff, and concerns regarding reimbursement.SummaryThere are many tools available for molecular epidemiologic investigation. Epidemiologists and clinical laboratorians should work together to determine which testing methods are best for each institution.

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