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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2011 Sep;17(9):1359-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2010.03398.x. Epub 2010 Dec 3.

Improved clinical laboratory identification of human pathogenic yeasts by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry.

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Institute for Medical Microbiology and German National Reference Centre for Systemic Mycoses, University Medical Centre Göttingen, Kreuzbergring 57, Göttingen, Germany.


The key to therapeutic success with yeast infections is an early onset of antifungal treatment with an appropriate drug regimen. To do this, yeast species identification is necessary, but conventional biochemical and morphological approaches are time-consuming. The recent arrival of biophysical methods, such as matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS), in routine diagnostic laboratories holds the promise of significantly speeding up this process. In this study, two commercially available MALDI-TOF MS species identification systems were evaluated for application in clinical diagnostics, using a geographically diverse collection of 1192 clinical yeast and yeast-like isolates. The results were compared with those of the classical differentiation scheme based on microscopic and biochemical characteristics. For 95.1% of the isolates, all three procedures consistently gave the correct species identification, but the rate of misclassification was greatly reduced in both MALDI-TOF MS systems. Furthermore, several closely related species (e.g. Candida orthopsilosis/metapsilosis/parapsilosis or Candida glabrata/bracarensis) could be resolved by both MALDI-TOF MS systems, but not by the biochemical approach. A significant advantage of MALDI-TOF MS over biochemistry in the recognition of isolates novel to the system was observed. Although both MALDI-TOF MS systems employed different approaches in the database structure and showed different susceptibilities to errors in database entries, these were negligible in terms of clinical usefulness. The time-saving benefit of MALDI-TOF MS over biochemical identification will substantially improve fungal diagnostics and patient treatment.

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