Biochemistry: Fingerprinting Bacteria

Before they can effectively combat the bacteria that may infect a patient, threaten a swiftly spreading epidemic, or contaminate a municipal water sup ply, doctors and scientists need quick and positive identification of the invading organisms. But traditional laboratory tests that single out and classify bacterial troublemakers are complex, time-consuming and sometimes inconclusive. Often, before the results are in, the disease has spread or the patient has died. In the future, though, bacteria may lose their cloak of anonymity more quickly. Scientists have discovered that each species and strain has a distinctive "fingerprint" that can be used for virtu...

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