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Chapter 12.1 : Introduction
Molecular techniques are playing an increasingly central role in the detection and identification of pathogens and for the treatment of many infectious diseases. Some of the earliest techniques (e.g., direct nucleic acid probe-based tests) are being supplanted by nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). Automated, closed systems have become extremely rapid and user-friendly. On the low-throughput end, this has led to the first Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-waived NAATs designed for near-patient testing. On the high-throughput side, several fully robotic, random-access analyzes are commercially available that have been modeled after automated chemistry analyzers. At both ends of this spectrum, test menus on available platforms are rapidly expanding. These developments will hopefully lead to improved performance, faster turnaround times, and more cost-effective application of NAATs in clinical microbiology laboratories.