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Successful treatment of infections or diseases relies on accurate diagnostics. To provide the best data and analysis, consider the value added when comparing molecular and culture testing methods.  

Healthcare providers need innovative solutions based on the latest technology to offer fast and effective treatment.

What Is Molecular Testing?

Molecular diagnostic testing uses nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) to detect specific organisms in clinical samples. A positive result indicates the organism’s presence, while a negative result shows no evidence of the organism.

The most common types of molecular tests include polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA microarrays, and next-generation sequencing (NGS). PCR amplifies small amounts of DNA from bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and other pathogens. Microarray technology allows researchers to identify multiple genes at once by detecting the presence of particular sequences within a sample. NGS is a massively parallel sequencing technology and is high throughput, scalable, and speedy. 

What Is Culture Testing?

Culture diagnostic testing determines if a pathogen is present in a specimen. It involves growing the organism until there is enough of the specimen to be visible using microscopy, biochemical reactions, or other techniques. This process takes several days to weeks. Once developed, further tests such as serology, antigen detection, or antimicrobial susceptibility may occur.

Healthcare professionals commonly use culture testing to diagnose bacterial infections. Culture testing can also identify viral, fungal, and parasitic infections.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Molecular Versus Culture Methods?

Both molecular and culture tests require the collection of blood, urine, stool, tissue biopsies, or other samples from the body. The specimen requires proper preparation before testing. Failure to manage the sample correctly will yield unreliable results.

  • Time – Molecular testing takes less time than culture testing. Culture testing requires organism growth in the lab which can take days or weeks for results. 
  • Cost – Culture testing costs less than molecular testing. Molecular testing requires specialized equipment and highly trained personnel to conduct laboratory operations.
  • Contamination – Both types of testing can produce false results when contaminated. The sensitive nature of molecular testing requires contamination prevention to produce accurate results. 
  • Accuracy – Culture testing provides information about which antibiotics would work best against the organism. However, culture testing can produce false negatives when the organism is resistant to antibiotics. Molecular testing typically offers more accuracy.

Which Method Should I Use?

It depends on the patient, the suspected illness or infection, and your available options. Molecular testing produces faster results which help prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Plus, an accurate diagnosis means better treatment options. 

However, culture tests cost less and may work for common illnesses where time sensitivity is less important for the patient’s health. Advances in diagnostic testing show a shift to molecular testing when available. 

Molecular testing has several advantages over traditional methods. Doctors detect infections sooner than with traditional methods. Healthcare outcomes improve with customized treatment solutions based on effective diagnostic results.

The LUX Diagnostics Difference

The team at LUX diagnostics has a passion for medicine and improving healthcare outcomes. That starts with the best technology that produces reliable results. 

Contact us today to learn more about our diagnostic solutions.

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