Emerging Pathogens: Challenges and Successes of Molecular Diagnostics
AbstractMore than 50 emerging and reemerging pathogens have been identified during the last 40 years. Until 1992 when the Institute of Medicine issued a report that defined emerging infectious diseases, medicine had been complacent about such infectious diseases despite the alarm bells of infections with human immunodeficiency virus. Molecular tools have proven useful in discovering and characterizing emerging viruses and bacteria such as Sin Nombre virus (hantaviral pulmonary syndrome), hepatitis C virus, Bartonella henselae (cat scratch disease, bacillary angiomatosis), and Anaplasma phagocytophilum (human granulocytotropic anaplasmosis). The feasibility of applying molecular diagnostics to dangerous, fastidious, and uncultivated agents for which conventional tests do not yield timely diagnoses has achieved proof of concept for many agents, but widespread use of cost-effective, validated commercial assays has yet to occur. This review presents representative emerging viral respiratory infections, hemorrhagic fevers, and hepatitides, as well as bacterial and parasitic zoonotic, gastrointestinal, and pulmonary infections. Agent characteristics, epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnostic methods are tabulated for another 22 emerging viruses and five emerging bacteria. The ongoing challenge to the field of molecular diagnostics is to apply contemporary knowledge to facilitate agent diagnosis as well as to further discoveries of novel pathogens.