Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms
: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays are useful tools for pathogen surveillance, butthey are only proxy indications of pathogen presence in that they detect a DNA sequence. To be use-ful for detection of actual infections, PCR assays must be thoroughly tested for sensitivity and speci-ficity, and ultimately validated against a technique, typically histology, which allows visualization ofthe parasite in host tissues. There is growing use of PCR assays for pathogen surveillance, but toooften the assumption is made that a positive PCR result verifies an infection in a tested host. Thisassumption is valid only if the assay has been properly validated for the geographic area and for thehosts examined. Researchers should interpret unvalidated PCR assay results with caution, and edi-tors and reviewers should insist that robust validations support all assertions that PCR results confirminfections.
Burreson, EM, Misuse of PCR assay for diagnosis of molluscprotistan infections (2008). Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 80, 81-83.