Although the recognition of molecular epidemiology as an epidemiology subspecialty is relatively recent, laboratory methods have long been used to classify disease and determine exposure in epidemiologic studies. For example, the ability to detect and identify bacteria was essential to the success of studies illuminating the epidemiology of typhoid by Wade Hampton Frost and others, as was the ability to measure blood lipids in the identification of an association between cholesterol and heart disease risk in the Framingham study. The distinction implied in the term molecular epidemiology arises from the challenges and opportunities of applying the rapidly expanding array of modern molecular techniques to studies of health and disease in populations. Modern molecular techniques include the ability to directly study genes (genomics), gene expression (transcriptomics), ...

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