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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