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Laboratory Techniques
The ABC of PCR
  1. Kim Willoughby

    Kim Willoughby graduated from Glasgow in 1982. After six years in practice and two years in industry, she joined the University of Liverpool, where she developed interests in feline medicine and feline infectious diseases. She was awarded a PhD in 1996 for molecular studies on feline herpesvirus and continued to work in this field until leaving Liverpool in 2000. She currently works on small ruminant lentiviruses at the University of Edinburgh.


POLYMERASE chain reaction (PCR) analysis has become one of the mainstays of the molecular biology laboratory. Its strength lies in its ability to provide rapid, accurate results, and its high sensitivity and specificity have led to many applications, both as a diagnostic tool and in clinical research. In veterinary medicine, PCR techniques are usually used to detect infectious diseases or to screen animals for specific genetic conditions. It should be emphasised, however, that as with any other laboratory method, PCR results should be interpreted in the light of the clinical findings. This article explains the basic principles of PCR and discusses its benefits and limitations. It also explores the current and potential future uses of this essentially simple, but very powerful, molecular test.

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