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Journal of Applied Genetics 45(1), 2004, pp. 3-15

Fungal molecular diagnostics: a mini review


Abstract: Conventional methods to identify fungi have often relied on identification of disease symptoms, isolation and culturing of environmental organisms, and laboratory identification by morphology and biochemical tests. Although these methods are still fundamental there is an increasing move towards molecular diagnostics of fungi in all fields. In this review, some of the molecular approaches to fungal diagnostics based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA/RNA probe technology are discussed. This includes several technological advances in PCR-based methods for the detection, identification and quantification of fungi including real-time PCR which has been successfully used to provide rapid, quantitative data on fungal species from environmental samples. PCR and probe based methods have provided new tools for the enumeration of fungal species, but it is still necessary to combine the new technology with more conventional methods to gain a fuller understanding of interactions occurring in the environment. Since its introduction in the mid 1980's PCR has provided many molecular diagnostic tools, some of which are discussed within this review, and with the advances in micro-array technology and real-time PCR methods the future is bright for the development of accurate, quantitative diagnostic tools that can provide information not only on individual fungal species but also on whole communities.

Key words: fungi, micro-array, molecular identification, PCR, real-time PCR.

Correspondence: S.D. ATKINS, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, UK AL5 2JQ, e-mail:

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