In the past 10 years, clinical microbiology laboratories have undergone important changes with the introduction of molecular biology techniques and laboratory automation. Molecular methods will be used increasingly for the rapid diagnosis and study of the pathogenesis and epidemiology of infectious diseases. The availability of complete genome sequences of large numbers of pathogenic microorganisms will provide a better understanding of their evolutionary genetics, virulence, and host interactions. Microbial and host gene expression profiles have been used to develop tools that allow faster and more precise diagnosis and individually tailored treatment regimens and outcome prediction. In the future, there will be a need for more rapid diagnosis, increased standardization of testing, and greater adaptability to cope with new threats from infectious microorganisms, such as agents of bioterrorism and emerging pathogens. The combination of the new tools that are now being developed in research laboratories and improved communication between physicians and clinical microbiologists should lead to intense changes in the way that clinical microbiologists work.
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