Rapid typing of bacteria using matrix-assisted laser desorption ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry and pattern recognition software

J Microbiol Methods. 2002 Feb;48(2-3):127-38. doi: 10.1016/s0167-7012(01)00317-7.


Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) of intact microorganisms, also known as intact cell MALDI-TOF-MS (ICM-MS), has been shown to produce characteristic mass spectral fingerprints of moieties desorbed from the cell surface. ICM-MS spectra can be obtained in minutes after removal of a colony from a culture plate. The similarity of ICM-MS spectra of replicate samples and of two different batches of the same bacterial strain demonstrates, in this study, the reproducibility of the technique. We have developed the Manchester Metropolitan University Search Engine (MUSE) to rapidly build and search databases of ICM-MS spectra. A database of 35 strains, representing 20 species and 12 genera, was built with MUSE and used to identify 212 isolates. The database was created in 26 s and loaded in 10 s, ready for searching, which took less than 1 s per isolate. Correct matches were made in 79%, 84% and 89% of the 212 samples at strain, species and genus levels, respectively. At least 50% of the replicates of 42 of the 45 isolates matched the correct strain, and the most commonly identified species for 43 of the 45 isolates was the correct one. The close match of the Escherichia coli strains containing the O157 antigen and the E. coli strains containing the K1 antigen suggests that these antigens may have a dominating influence on the ICM-MS fingerprints of these strains. We now have the ability to acquire ICM-MS fingerprints of bacteria and to search a database of these fingerprints within minutes, so that the rapid identification of bacteria to the strain level can be realised.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / chemistry
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Software
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization*