How to identify viruses and bacteria

Molecular biology helps to identify viruses and bacteria.

Detection of harmful organisms with Real-Time PCR.

There are billions of bacteria and viruses in our environment. Most of them are harmless and live in the ground, in the water, on plants and animals and also in our intestinal tract. In our gut the bacteria are essential and thus friendly helpers. They help us to digest food and to absorb nutrients.

But how can we recognize and differentiate between the good bacteria and the harmful bacteria and viruses. Many of the harmful bacteria are variants of the good bacteria and have acquired pathogenic characteristics. For example the EHEC bacteria is a closely related strain of the E coli bacteria but gained pathogenic capacities with the ability to produce harmful toxins.

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The best and efficient method for the detection and identification of a specific pathogenic organism or an organism group is Real-Time PCR. The technique is based on the exponential amplification of DNA by thermostable Thermaus aquaticus (Taq) polymerase. DNA isolated from samples can then be directly analysed. When virus-RNA is used, an enzymatic treatment of reverse transcriptase reaction is needed to reverse transcribe RNA into DNA.

The analysis and quantification of DNA or RNA is based on a fluorescence kinetic PCR and enables the quantification of the PCR product in real time. This sensitive and accurate technique permits quantification of PCR products during the exponential phase of PCR reaction and provides information as rapidly as the amplification itself. The development of this real time PCR had a revolutionary impact on molecular diagnostics.

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