Bacterial analysis by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry: An inter-laboratory comparison

Abstract

Bacterial analysis by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry has been demonstrated in numerous laboratories, and a few attempts have been made to compare results from different laboratories on the same organism. It has been difficult to understand the causes behind the observed differences between laboratories when different instruments, matrices, solvents, etc. are used. In order to establish this technique as a useful tool for bacterial identification, additional efforts in standardizing the methods by which MALDI mass spectra are obtained and comparisons of spectra from different instruments with different operators are needed. Presented here is an extension of our previous single-laboratory reproducibility study with three different laboratories in a controlled experiment with aliquots of the same bacterial culture, matrix stock solution, and calibrant standards. Using automated spectral collection of whole-cell bacteria and automated data processing and analysis algorithms, fingerprints from three different laboratories were constructed and compared. Nine of the ions appeared reproducibly within all three laboratories, with additional unique ions observed within each of the laboratories. An initial evaluation of the ability to use a fingerprint generated within one laboratory for bacterial identification of a sample from another laboratory is presented, and strategies for improving identification rates between laboratories is discussed.

Published online January 29, 2005