Polymerase chain reaction protocols are now available for the diagnosis of all of the major bacterial respiratory tract pathogens. Molecular techniques are also being used to determine the susceptibility of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In addition, polymerase chain reaction-based diagnosis will find a place in the investigation of the epidemiology of some pathogens such as Bordetella pertussis and Chlamydia pneumoniae. The added sensitivity will allow the detection of mild or asymptomatic cases or carriers who may play a role in sustaining the pathogen in the community.
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