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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2011 May;17(5):750-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2010.03323.x.

Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry for fast and accurate identification of clinically relevant Aspergillus species.

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Department of Microbiology, Université Paris Descartes, Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades, Paris, France.


New Aspergillus species have recently been described with the use of multilocus sequencing in refractory cases of invasive aspergillosis. The classical phenotypic identification methods routinely used in clinical laboratories failed to identify them adequately. Some of these Aspergillus species have specific patterns of susceptibility to antifungal agents, and misidentification may lead to inappropriate therapy. We developed a matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry (MS)-based strategy to adequately identify Aspergillus species to the species level. A database including the reference spectra of 28 clinically relevant species from seven Aspergillus sections (five common and 23 unusual species) was engineered. The profiles of young and mature colonies were analysed for each reference strain, and species-specific spectral fingerprints were identified. The performance of the database was then tested on 124 clinical and 16 environmental isolates previously characterized by partial sequencing of the β-tubulin and calmodulin genes. One hundred and thirty-eight isolates of 140 (98.6%) were correctly identified. Two atypical isolates could not be identified, but no isolate was misidentified (specificity: 100%). The database, including species-specific spectral fingerprints of young and mature colonies of the reference strains, allowed identification regardless of the maturity of the clinical isolate. These results indicate that MALDI-TOF MS is a powerful tool for rapid and accurate identification of both common and unusual species of Aspergillus. It can give better results than morphological identification in clinical laboratories.

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