Beginning in the 1980s important developments in infectious diseases, both at home and abroad, changed the microbiology laboratory's role in patient care. They included the discovery of the retrovirus HIV as the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the increase of tuberculosis, and the importance of opportunistic infections in patients treated with potent drugs to fight cancer and prevent transplant rejection. The identification of Helicobacter pylori as a major factor in ulcer disease and its potential to cause or contribute to the development of gastric carcinoma demonstrated that microbial agents are even more important in human disease than ever imagined. Virology saw an explosion of new developments, not only with HIV, but also with other viral agents as important causes of acute and chronic diseases such as hepatitis C virus, HHV-8, human papilloma virus and HTLV.


The first commercially available blood culture system (Hynson, Westcott and Dunning, Inc., Baltimore), 1915. It utilized glass vacuum tubes manufactured by the Steele Glass Company of Philadelphia, and contained glucose bouillon with 1.5 percent sodium citrate as an anticoagulant.


This emerging climate of infectious diseases ushered in new technologies from diverse disciplines, including cell and molecular biology, immunology, aerospace engineering and robotics. Innovations significantly impacted activities of Penn's Clinical Microbiology Laboratory. In the modern laboratory, an advanced information system and automated instruments improved the rapidity and efficiency of reporting data, and new capabilities to sequence DNA found a place in the routine diagnostic laboratory. With additional technology and skills, the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory expanded its role from a clinical service providing laboratory data to a consultative service assisting physicians in an integrated team approach to patient care. The modern laboratory also works toward developing new cost-effective testing approaches to aid in the diagnosis and management of infectious disease patients.