Diagnosis of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection has primarily been achieved using reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for acute infection, and serology for prior infection. Assay with RT-PCR provides data on presence or absence of viral RNA, with no information on virus replication competence, infectivity, or virus characterisation. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is typically not used in clinical virology, despite its potential to provide supplemental data about the presence of viral proteins and thus the potential for replication-competent, transmissible virus. Using the SARS-CoV-2 as a model virus, we developed a fast 'bottom-up' proteomics workflow for discovery of target virus peptides using 'serum-free' culture conditions, providing high coverage of viral proteins without the need for protein or peptide fractionation techniques. This workflow was then applied to Coronaviruses OC43 and 229E, Influenza A/H1N1 and H3N2, Influenza B, and Respiratory Syncytial Viruses A and B. Finally, we created an LC-MS/MS method for targeted detection of the eight-virus panel in clinical specimens, successfully detecting peptides from the SARS-CoV-2 ORF9B and nucleoprotein in RT-PCR positive samples. The method provides specific detection of respiratory viruses from clinical samples containing moderate viral loads and is an important further step to the use of LC-MS/MS in diagnosis of viral infection.
© 2022. The Author(s).