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To aid in the diagnosis of disease or identification of infectious agents, clinical laboratorians use a variety of methodologies to assist them. Knowing what to look for, or the right question to ask, is vital to obtaining the correct answer.

Many diseases and agents have unique causes. The cause of the condition then becomes the "target" to be identified and perhaps even quantified.

  • For example: If Patient A is suspected of having disease X, and disease X requires treatment, it is necessary to prove that disease X exists within patient A. We must know something about what causes disease X; is disease X an antigen, a bacteria, a viral particle, a missequenced piece of DNA?

Once the target of interest (in this case disease X) has been identified, the clinical laboratorian can choose the methodology most appropriate to answering the question, "Does disease X exist within Patient A?"