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The role of molecular detection, identification and typing or fingerprinting of microorganisms has shifted gradually from the academic world to the routine diagnostic laboratory. Molecular methods have been used increasingly over the past decade to improve the sensitivity, specificity and turn-around time in the clinical laboratory. Molecular methods have also been used to identify new and nonculturable agents. Many high-throughput molecular tests are now available commercially, which impacts on the infrastructure in many of the diagnostic laboratories. In this paper, we take an overall look at the use of molecular methods (prospects vs. pitfalls) based on our clinical and public health experience, particularly as they related to Borrelia burgdorferi, a vector-borne pathogen, Treponema pallidum, a re-emerging sexually transmitted global pathogen, and West Nile virus, a newly recognized virus in North America.