Laboratory techniques

Molecular markers can determine the similarity or divergence between two isolates of an organism, and assess whether a patient has a new infection or a relapse of an old one. When multiple infections occur in a population, it can be determined whether infections were related to the same source. It is possible to pinpoint an animal, arthropod, food or environmental source. It is also often possible to characterize the patterns of spread and the mode of transmission. Other questions that can be addressed are whether some strains are more transmissible, more virulent, or associated with different clinical characteristics (e.g. longer carriage). Devising sensible and effective interventions is more likely if the routes of transmission and epidemiological patterns are known.

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