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Syst Appl Microbiol. 2011 Feb;34(1):20-9. doi: 10.1016/j.syapm.2010.11.003. Epub 2011 Feb 4.

Bacterial species identification from MALDI-TOF mass spectra through data analysis and machine learning.

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Laboratory of Microbiology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.


At present, there is much variability between MALDI-TOF MS methodology for the characterization of bacteria through differences in e.g., sample preparation methods, matrix solutions, organic solvents, acquisition methods and data analysis methods. After evaluation of the existing methods, a standard protocol was developed to generate MALDI-TOF mass spectra obtained from a collection of reference strains belonging to the genera Leuconostoc, Fructobacillus and Lactococcus. Bacterial cells were harvested after 24h of growth at 28°C on the media MRS or TSA. Mass spectra were generated, using the CHCA matrix combined with a 50:48:2 acetonitrile:water:trifluoroacetic acid matrix solution, and analyzed by the cell smear method and the cell extract method. After a data preprocessing step, the resulting high quality data set was used for PCA, distance calculation and multi-dimensional scaling. Using these analyses, species-specific information in the MALDI-TOF mass spectra could be demonstrated. As a next step, the spectra, as well as the binary character set derived from these spectra, were successfully used for species identification within the genera Leuconostoc, Fructobacillus, and Lactococcus. Using MALDI-TOF MS identification libraries for Leuconostoc and Fructobacillus strains, 84% of the MALDI-TOF mass spectra were correctly identified at the species level. Similarly, the same analysis strategy within the genus Lactococcus resulted in 94% correct identifications, taking species and subspecies levels into consideration. Finally, two machine learning techniques were evaluated as alternative species identification tools. The two techniques, support vector machines and random forests, resulted in accuracies between 94% and 98% for the identification of Leuconostoc and Fructobacillus species, respectively.

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