MALDI-TOF MS in microbiological diagnostics—identification of microorganisms and beyond (mini review)
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Few developments in microbiological diagnostics have had such a rapid impact on species level identification of microorganisms as matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). Conventional differentiation methods rely on biochemical criteria and require additional pre-testing and lengthy incubation procedures. In comparison, MALDI-TOF MS can identify bacteria and yeast within minutes directly from colonies grown on culture plates. This radically new, methodically simple approach profoundly reduces the cost of consumables and time spent on diagnostics. The reliability and accuracy of the method have been demonstrated in numerous studies and different systems are already commercially available. Novel applications of the system besides microbial species level identification are also being explored. This includes identification of pathogens from positive blood cultures or directly from patient samples, such as urine. Currently, intriguing MALDI-TOF MS developments are being made regarding the phenotypic detection of certain antibiotic resistance mechanisms, e.g., β-lactamases and carbapenemases. This mini review provides an overview of the literature in the field and also includes our own data and experiences gathered from over 4 years of routine MALDI-TOF MS use in a university hospital’s microbiological diagnostics facility.