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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2012 Mar;36(2):380-407. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2011.00298.x. Epub 2011 Aug 22.

Applications of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry in clinical diagnostic microbiology.

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Institute of Microbiology, University Hospital Center and University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Until recently, microbial identification in clinical diagnostic laboratories has mainly relied on conventional phenotypic and gene sequencing identification techniques. The development of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) devices has revolutionized the routine identification of microorganisms in clinical microbiology laboratories by introducing an easy, rapid, high throughput, low-cost, and efficient identification technique. This technology has been adapted to the constraint of clinical diagnostic laboratories and has the potential to replace and/or complement conventional identification techniques for both bacterial and fungal strains. Using standardized procedures, the resolution of MALDI-TOF MS allows accurate identification at the species level of most Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial strains with the exception of a few difficult strains that require more attention and further development of the method. Similarly, the routine identification by MALDI-TOF MS of yeast isolates is reliable and much quicker than conventional techniques. Recent studies have shown that MALDI-TOF MS has also the potential to accurately identify filamentous fungi and dermatophytes, providing that specific standardized procedures are established for these microorganisms. Moreover, MALDI-TOF MS has been used successfully for microbial typing and identification at the subspecies level, demonstrating that this technology is a potential efficient tool for epidemiological studies and for taxonomical classification.

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