DNA PROBES are about to revolutionize the diagnosis of infectious disease. So predicted several representatives of laboratory medicine and the biotechnology industry who spoke at a symposium, "DNA Probes in the Practice of Medicine," sponsored by the American Medical Association this spring in Washington, DC.
It is hard to challenge such a forecast. In theory, the probes—tiny fragments of DNA that bind to identical complementary DNA fragments—have unsurpassed diagnostic potential. They can identify any living organism, be it virus, bacterium, or cellular parasite, by a certain stretch of DNA that belongs to that organism exclusively. Thus, probes may be developed for DNA that is exclusive to one species of bacterium or viral strain or common to all species in a given bacterial genus or viral class.
It is this property that makes geneprobe diagnosis so attractive, according to David C. Ward, MD, professor of human genetics, biophysics, and biochemistry, Yale