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J Clin Microbiol. 2011 May;49(5):1790-4. doi: 10.1128/JCM.02135-10. Epub 2011 Mar 16.

Identification of mycobacteria in solid-culture media by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry.

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  • 1Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1508, USA.


Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) has recently been introduced into the clinical microbiology laboratory as a rapid and accurate method to identify bacteria and yeasts. In this paper we describe our work on the use of MALDI-TOF MS for the identification of mycobacterial isolates. We developed a protocol for protein extraction from mycobacteria and utilized it to construct a database containing 42 clinically relevant type and reference strains of mycobacteria. The database was used to identify 104 clinical isolates of mycobacteria. All members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex were identified accurately at the complex level but could not be separated at the species level. All other organisms were identified at the species level, with the exception of one strain of M. kansasii (accurately identified but with a low spectral score) and three pairs of closely related strains: M. abscessus and M. massiliense, M. mucogenicum and M. phocaicum, and M. chimaera and M. intracellulare. These pairs of organisms can currently be identified only by multilocus gene sequence analysis. We conclude that MALDI-TOF MS analysis can be incorporated into the work flow of the microbiology laboratory for rapid and accurate identification of most strains of mycobacteria isolated from solid growth media.

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