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Med Mycol. 2013 Jul;51(5):514-21. doi: 10.3109/13693786.2012.746476. Epub 2012 Dec 11.

Identification of dermatophytes by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry.

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Institute of Microbiology, via Mirasole 22A, 6501 Bellinzona, Switzerland.


In this study we evaluated the suitability of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) for the identification of dermatophytes in diagnostic laboratories. First, a spectral database was built with 108 reference strains belonging to 18 species of the anamorphic genera Epidermophyton, Microsporum and Trichophyton. All strains were well characterized by morphological criteria and ITS sequencing (gold standard). The dendrogram resulting from MALDI-TOF mass spectra was almost identical with the phylogenetic tree based on ITS sequencing. Subsequently, MALDI-TOF MS SuperSpectra were created for the identification of Epidermophyton floccosum, Microsporium audouinii, M. canis, M. gypseum (teleomorph: Arthroderma gypseum), M. gypseum (teleomorph: A. incurvatum), M. persicolor, A. benhamiae (Tax. Entity 3 and Am-Eur. race), T. erinacei, T. interdigitale (anthropophilic and zoophilic populations), T. rubrum/T. violaceum, T. tonsurans and T. terrestre. Because T. rubrum and T. violaceum did not present enough mismatches, a SuperSpectrum covering both species was created, and differentiation between them was done by comparison of eight specific peptide masses. In the second part of this study, MALDI-TOF MS with the newly created SuperSpectra was tested using 141 clinical isolates representing nine species. Analyses were done with 3-day-old cultures. Results were compared to morphological identification and ITS sequencing; 135/141 (95.8%) strains were correctly identified by MALDI-TOF MS compared to 128/141 (90.8%) by morphology. Therefore, MALDI-TOF MS has proven to be a useful and rapid identification method for dermatophytes.

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