IN veterinary practice, bacteria are a concern because they may cause or complicate disease in a host animal or group of animals. It can be frustrating when samples for bacterial culture fail to yield useful results. Even when isolates are recovered, their clinical significance can be uncertain. This article reviews host‐bacteria interactions, a knowledge of which is fundamental to clinical bacteriology, from sampling to interpretation of laboratory results. It sets the scene for a companion article, published on pages 28 to 33 of this issue, which provides an overview of clinical bacteriology, concentrating on how to maximise diagnostic yield from clinical samples.
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